August 28 is an important date. 2020 is an important year.
That’s why Oprah Winfrey has decided to launch OWN Spotlight: Culture Connection & August 28th, featuring separate conversations with Ava DuVernay and Rev. Al Sharpton with regard to the historical context of this date as well as the significance of the Black vote and the upcoming presidential election. The special is a part of Winfrey’s Own Your Vote initiative.
Per the press release sent to The Root by OWN:
During the special, Winfrey speaks with DuVernay about the work she is doing in support of social justice, how she uses history to inform her activism, and how imperative it is for everyone to vote in the upcoming election. Winfrey later discusses with Rev. Al Sharpton the connection of the upcoming “Get Off Our Necks” Commitment March taking place on the same day as the historic March on Washington 57 years ago. Rev. Sharpton shares ways that everyone can show their support in this moment, reiterating his intention for the march is not about numbers but long-term impact.
There will also be a special presentation of DuVernay’s short film August 28: A Day in the Life of a People starring Lupita Nyong’o, Angela Bassett, Don Cheadle, Regina King, David Oyelowo, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, André Holland, Michael Ealy and Glynn Turman.
“This year, we have experienced the profound importance of learning and understanding the history of our country as it pertains to social justice,” Winfrey said in a statement. “Both Ava and Rev. Sharpton have been doing the work in their own ways to raise awareness for these issues, and I look forward to bringing my conversations with these leaders to our passionate OWN audience ahead of the upcoming election.”
In an exclusive clip from the special obtained by The Root, DuVernay and Winfrey sat down to discuss just what the award-winning director was thinking (and more importantly, feeling) once it was announced that Senator Kamala Harris was to be named Joe Biden’s running mate for the 2020 presidential election. With the pick, Harris made history as the first Black (and Asian) female vice-presidential candidate of a major party.
For DuVernay, she felt a “reverence” and that the day was “sacred.”
“I think the beautiful thing about these strange and important times is that we really can feel [and] everyone knows that we’re in the midst of history,” DuVernay noted.
Winfrey also mentioned DuVernay’s Instagram post about the announcement, which garnered a lot of attention, including some pushback.
“I don’t wanna hear anything bad about her,” DuVernay wrote in the caption. “It doesn’t matter to me. Vote them in and then let’s hold them accountable. Anything other than that is insanity. It’s ego. It’s against our own interests. It’s selfish. It’s disrespectful to our elders. It’s nonsense. It’s talking to hear yourself talk. This is a matter of life or death. We need all our energy focused. This is a fight for more than can be expressed here. There is no debate anymore. Not for me anyway.”
DuVernay’s words were actually a reflection of the ongoing debate surrounding Harris and the obvious microscope that has been placed on the Senator. There are many layers of discussion: there’s the valid critique of her prosecution record, as well as the equally valid assessment of how misogynoir plays into the way she’s critiqued over her counterparts, to start.
This year has brought quite the reckoning and shifting, with many Black people choosing not to rely on symbolism or representation politics anymore, and instead taking the time to assess these candidates in more critical ways—even if they also agree that the ultimate goal is to make sure Cheeto-in-Chief doesn’t get a second term.
The main disagreement appears to focus on when to critique. Do we wait until Biden and Harris are in office, or do we hold them accountable now so that they truly earn our vote? How do we unpack the worry that comes with hesitating to critique the Democratic candidates for fear of jeopardizing their chances to defeat the circus peanut currently occupying the White House? What about the marginalized people who have experienced nothing but harm (even pre-pandemic) and do not have the privilege of waiting? These are all valid questions that deserve answers. And from where I’m sitting, I doubt Black folks—no matter their current stance—will stop talking. Our voices matter.
DuVernay has made a point to insert herself into the national conversation surrounding politics and social justice, most recently speaking with The Root’s editor-in-chief Danielle Belton at The Root Institute and again while interviewing Angela Davis for Vanity Fair’s September issue.
“This time will be long-remembered,” DuVernay says in the above clip. “This time will be long-studied and the question is, ‘What lessons are we learning now that we can take into the future?’”
OWN Spotlight: Culture Connection & August 28th will air throughout the day Friday at 1 p.m., 4 p.m., and 6 p.m. ET/PT on OWN. Plus, you can stream for free on the Watch OWN app, the OWN Facebook and YouTube pages beginning at 2 p.m. ET.