The Grammys and Oscars are times when even the most jaded star can turn giddy during a thank-you speech. Everyone loves to get an award. But consider that Angela Bassett, a Yale School of Drama graduate, not only didn’t get an Oscar for her best performance, she has worked sporadically in movies ever since. She is among several Black Juillard and Yale School of Drama graduates, including Sanaa Lathan, who’ve never won any major awards at all. If we’re looking for the mainstream community to recognize our talent, relying on Oscar and Grammy voters isn’t the best way to do it.

Prince, a living legend by any standard, has won 7 Grammys. Alicia Keys has 15, including the Best R&B Album award she won last night. Prince has never won a Grammy for an album and at last count he’s made over 30, not including the 10 or so he released exclusively online. Alicia has released five. Do we think Grammy voters really know what they’re doing?

We look down on our own awards – whether it’s The BET Awards, the Image Awards, the Trumpet Awards, The Stellar Awards or Black Girls Rock, hoping instead to get the mainstream thumbs up instead. But Black artists should really be grateful to get props from their own, because for many of them, it was their own community that helped them get to mainstream status in the first place.

Most Black artists don’t start out being beloved by the mainstream. They are “discovered” only after the Black community gives them their blessing. The awards that we give out reflect our love and support for those artists, sometimes long after the mainstream gives a damn about them. Let’s celebrate those who celebrate us and stop looking to those outside our community to give us acceptance when we already have it with our own.

COMMENTARY: Do Black Artists Need The Grammys and Oscars?  was originally published on

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