The 2018 Tony nominations, announced yesterday, were dominated by big names and big brands, but there were some bright spots for those keeping an eye on diversity.
First, the tale of the tape: Of the 39 performers nominated for Tonys, 13 are black, Hispanic, Asian-American or Arab-American. Click here for the entire run-down.
The two big winners, with 12 nominations apiece, were the musical productions of “Mean Girls” and “SpongeBob SquarePants,” earning Tina Fey a nod for her adaptation of her wickedly funny 2004 film of the same name.
One important surprise went to Lauren Ridloff, a onetime Miss Deaf America and former sign-language tutor, who was nominated for her performance as Sarah Norman in the stage adaptation of “Children of a Lesser God.” One of the show’s producers, Nyle DiMarco, is also deaf and an activist. “We want to make sign language more mainstream, more accepted by the general audience,” he told Now This. “But we also need it to be authentic, to have deaf actors who are playing deaf characters.”
But one nomination, in particular, helps highlight why representation matters.
Noma Dumezweni, who plays the beloved Hermione in the blockbuster hit “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child,” was nominated for best performance by an actress in a featured role in a play. The play itself earned ten nominations.
Dumezweni originated the role in London’s West End in 2016 and was a controversial choice from the start. Dumezweni, who is black, offended some fans who had become used to a white Hermione after eight films, a gazillion book covers and endless merchandise. They were vocal, persistent and often ugly in their feedback.
Harry Potter creator J.K. Rowling was forced to publicly confirm that Hermione’s race was never specified.
“Canon: brown eyes, frizzy hair and very clever. White skin was never specified. Rowling loves black Hermione,” she tweeted with a kissy-face emoji when the cast was announced in December 2015. Later she told The Guardian that she had grown frustrated with the backlash. “I had a bunch of racists telling me that because Hermione ‘turned white’ – that is, lost colour from her face after a shock – that she must be a white woman, which I have a great deal of difficulty with.”
As an unexpected trailblazer, Dumezweni had the support of powerful allies and was able to excel at her job, thrill the fans and rack up important awards.
But Buzzfeed’s Alanna Bennett does a beautiful job explaining why black Hermione matters to more than just one performer.
Bennett had grown up with the canon and worn Hogwarts costumes for Halloween, but was prepared to never truly feel that she could be the character she loved. “In one casting move, they’d officially changed Hermione forever,” she wrote. “It’s a moment that has become deeply etched into me, a tattoo on the arc of my life.”
She points to the massive body of fan art, years in the making, that had first conjured a black Hermione. It was an inclusive ecosystem, Bennett says, that allowed for the possibility that “other people” could be brilliant, magical and the star of the story. Because Hermione had always been depicted a certain way, “Harry Potter fans were used to manifesting their own representations from a series that had always presented very white and very straight.”
It’s what made Rowling’s validation of the casting choice such a powerful one, and one that should inspire other talent wranglers to revisit their ideas of who they think can play certain roles. When challenging implicit or explicit bias, a firm conviction and a kissy face emoji can go a long way to changing the world.
I mean, it’s sort of exciting, isn’t it? Breaking the rules.
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|New analysis from the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI), a nonpartisan group studying the intersection of faith, culture, and policy, finds broad and growing support for same-sex marriage in particular and LGBT rights in general across all faiths and ethnic groups. Even those religious groups most opposed to same-sex marriage have become more accepting over the last five years: Opposition to same-sex marriage dropped 13 percentage points among white evangelical Protestants - from 71% in 2013 to 58% today. During the same time period, opposition among Mormons dropped 15 percentage points - from 68% in 2014 to 53% today. There's lots of data, so do bookmark and share.|
|A Toronto-based restaurant must pay after forcing black customers to prepay for their food|
|A Toronto Chinese restaurant is being forced to pay Emile Wickham $10,000 Canadian dollars after the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal determined Hong Shing Chinese Restaurant discriminated against him and three of his friends. The four were celebrating Wickham’s birthday in 2014; after the server asked them to prepay citing restaurant policy, Wickham surveyed other customers and found that nobody else had been asked. They were the only black customers in the restaurant. “The average Canadian never calls themselves racist, but if a significant part of the population have legitimate stories of being discriminated against, this has to be seen beyond the scope of a restaurant claim,” he said.|
|So, I guess we need to talk about Kanye|
|But where to begin? Kanye West has been pushing buttons on Twitter on a variety of subjects, many of them stemming from his vocal support of President Trump and his apparent admiration for certain black, conservative voices. And his feed has become an existential mash-up of philosophical musings, discordant koans, and bad advice, prompting fans to worry that his mental health is in jeopardy. But he went too far with a pronouncement in an interview on TMZ Live: "When you hear about slavery for 400 years ... For 400 years? That sounds like a choice," he said. The pushback, from a TMZ staffer named Van Lathan, was magnificent. Click here for the short video of the exchange, and then follow #IfSlaveryWereAChoice on Twitter. It is the latest, greatest example of how black Twitter self-organizes to heal, inform and laugh, even through tears. More on the Kanye situation below.|
The Woke Leader
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|Historians Against Slavery|
|These black women are transforming the billion dollar romance novel industry|
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|In his shoes|
|Charlotte Alter interviewed some two dozen trans men and activists - including people of color - about their lives and families. Men who were raised and socialized as female had extraordinary things to say about the fundamentally different way the world now treats them - and what it means for them at work, in their relationships, and as they walk down the street. "Cultural sexism in the world is very real when you’ve lived on both sides of the coin," says one.|