The Academy Awards, which aired on live television on Sunday, March 4, was filled with mild political commentary, referring to Dreamers, gun violence, and overall activism at points throughout the night. One of the most outright socially-conscious moments of the 90th Annual Oscars was the performance of rapper Common and singer Andra Day’s nominated song, “Stand Up For Something” from the film Marshall. Joining them on the stage were ten different activists who are/have played a prominent role in today’s society, who were unfortunately unnamed. Here are the amazing people who attended the Oscars alongside Day and Common.
Bana al-Abed: At just eight years-old, al-Abed represents an entire population of Syrian refugees, describing the nightmare of Aleppo and other refugee situations through her Twitter to draw attention. Recently, in October of 2017, she had her book, “Dear World: A Syrian Girl’s Story of War and Plea for Peace” published, which discussed her personal experience as a refugee battling airstrikes, hunger, and many more adversities. The brave telling of her story gained international attention to the refugee movement as a whole.
Cecile Richards: Richards has dedicated a large portion of her life to pro-choice activism. She’s served as the president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund since 2006. Her dedication to the fight for women’s equality and healthcare has made a huge impact on the pro-choice movement and the movement on women’s rights as a whole.
Alice Brown Otter: From Standing Rock of North Dakota, Native American Alice Brown Otter made a notable stand against the Dakota Access Pipeline at a mere fourteen years of age. Amazingly, the teen ran 1,519 miles from Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, ND to Washington D.C. in order to protest the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. Her story proves that you can make a spark of change at any age, and her fight for justice on behalf of the indigenous people is one that is prominent in our day and our history.
Bryan Stevenson: Stevenson is known for his work as a social justice activist and lawyer, notably combating unfair or mass incarceration in relations to economic and racial injustices. He is the director of the non-profit Equal Justice Initiative, and provides legal advocacy for those who have been unconstitutionally convicted.
Patrisse Cullors: Cullors co-founded an iconic movement of our time to fight against the acquittal of George Zimmerman and the murder of Trayvon Martin. Coining the phrase #BlackLivesMatter, Cullors actively advocates for a fair treatment of African-Americans in regards to the justice system and racially-motivated violence as a whole, and the movement that she helped found was one of the most impactful institutions of our time. “We can’t forget about #OscarsSoWhite,” she told Variety. “For Black Lives Matter, it was challenging [how] whiteness was permeating everything including Hollywood. So what we’re seeing is the culmination of years of organizing. Of us saying, ‘Hey, this isn’t fair.’”
Janet Mock: Revolutionizing trans-femme activism, Mock made a name for herself after starting the Twitter hashtag ‘#GirlsLikeUs’ to empower fellow transgender women. Soon thereafter, she became a New York Times best-selling author for her memoirs, “Redefining Realness” and “Surpassing Certainty.” While leading a successful career in writing as well as being a prominent figure in activism, she also speaks and represents many transgender women, including speaking at the Women’s March on Washington.
Jose Andres: Winner of the National Humanities Medal and owner of ThinkFoodGroup, Andres was recognized primarily for his work with the aftermath of Hurricane Maria on Puerto Rico, as he has provided, alongside World Central Kitchen and #ChefsForPuertoRico, about 3.3 million meals to Puerto Rico.
Dolores Huerta: Huerta, alongside Cesar Chavez, founded the National Farm Workers Association in 1962, later becoming the United Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee. In 2002, she founded the Dolores Huerta Foundation, supporting leadership development and policy advocacy for education, youth, and economic development. Huerta continues to work for equality in the LGBT community and improvements for low-income communities, as well as voter registration. In 2012, she was awarded with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Nicole Hockley: Hockley was strewn into the world of activism after her son, Dylan Hockley, was tragically killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012. Since then, Hockley has founded the Sandy Hook Promise, a national, non-profit organization that advocates for gun control and the end of gun violence, especially in schools.
Tarana Burke: As founder of the #MeToo movement, Burke has received a lot of attention in these past months for the massive impact that her creation has made in the prevention of sexual assault and harassment. Burke’s work in activism, however, exceeds the most recent months and dates back many years ago, working with civil rights movements and sexual violence movements alike.
All of these inspiring activists were acknowledged at the Oscars on Sunday night, also highlighting the different causes they stand for.
“You know, in American life, there are these people who abandon comfortable circumstances and take on issues that are bigger than themselves,” Dave Chappelle said in introducing the performance. “That is a thankless, thankless job to take on. Often times, our heroes are unsung and unrecognized — but tonight, we are joined by 10 extraordinary human beings who have answered the call to action. They are the unsung heroes.”
“I am truly honored to share the stage with such powerful people. People who work, sacrifice and have fought through their personal pain to make the world a better place,” added Andra Day later on. “Common and I wanted to show people who are working everyday in the trenches to transform perceptions, circumstances, legislation, social and political landscapes, and bring hope to the hopeless.”