Halle Berry received a career achievement award Monday night at the Critics Choice Association’s Fourth Annual Celebration of Black Cinema & Television, and used her time on stage to amplify Black actresses who’ve been overlooked by awards voters.
The Academy Award winner said when she speaks to journalists and film critics, they frequently note that twenty years have passed since her 2002 best actress Oscar win for Monster’s Ball, yet no other Black woman has received the award since.
“I feel heartbroken that nobody stands next to me, but what I also want to say is we should not covet awards. Awards do not define our worth. Awards do not define our talent. And if nobody stands f–king beside me, it doesn’t mean that we are not worthy, and that we are not doing the work,” Berry said to applause inside the Fairmont Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles.
The 55-year-old actress then acknowledged other talented female performers in the room.
“Tessa Thompson. I see you Ruth [Negga], I see you Jennifer Hudson. I see you,” she said.
Berry then became emotional as she continued her speech.
“It doesn’t mean that you’re not excellent and worthy,” she said while fighting back tears. “And let’s stop coveting that and letting that be the measure of our worth and our success, because it isn’t. And I hope soon somebody is standing there, but if you’re not, know you’re worthy, and you’re doing excellent, beautiful work, and you’re changing the game for so many little Black girls and little Black women that are looking to you and aspiring to be you.”
“Keep up the good work because we all see you. And thank you so very much for honoring me in this way tonight, I never could have imagined that I’d be on a stage [after] directing my first movie. So thank you, from my heart, thank you,” Berry said at the close of her speech.
Taraji P. Henson introduced her friend and tossed to a montage of Berry’s film roles, including scenes from her directorial debut Bruised, B.A.P.S., Swordfish, Die Another Day, and Introducing Dorothy Dandridge.
Additional award recipients at Monday night’s ceremony included:
- Ava DuVernay received the inaugural Melvin Van Peebles Trailblazer Award, named after the late filmmaker, who died in September.
- Will Smith received the actor award for film for his work in King Richard.
- Antoine Fuqua received the director award for film
- The cast of The Harder They Fall won the ensemble award
- Ruth Negga was presented with a special honoree award for her work in the film Passing
- Danielle Brooks received the actress award for television for her work in the Lifetime movie Robin Roberts Presents: Mahalia
- French actor Omar Sy took home the actor award for television for his work in Lupin
- Robin Thede received the showrunner award for HBO’s A Black Lady Sketch Show
- Toheeb Jimoh won the breakthrough award for Ted Lasso
- Kenan Thompson received a special honoree award for Saturday Night Live and Kenan
- Patina Miller was honored with a special honoree award for the Starz series Power Book III: Raising Kanan
- Natasha Rothwell received a special honoree award for HBO’s The White Lotus.
Watch Halle Berry in the video below.