The most powerful moments of the Oscars can often be the musical performances from Best Original Song nominees. Musicians tend to deliver extremely emotional performances, as if the impact of what they've achieved has finally hit them in that moment onstage. The video of the Marshall 2018 Oscar performance by Common and Andra Day was definitely one of those special moments. The two of them delivered a beautiful rendition of their nominated song, "Stand Up For Something."
The film Marshall starred Black Panther star, Chadwick Boseman, as the first African-American Supreme Court Justice, Thurgood Marshall. Common collaborated on the movie's song, "Stand Up For Something." with songwriter Diane Warren, but this isn't the first time his songs representing social justice made a mark on the Oscars. In 2014, he and John Legend won the Best Original Song Oscar for "Glory," which was emotionally performed in honor of its film Selma.
That particular nomination came at the height of the #OscarsSoWhite controversy, and the duo's work on the film about the historic Selma to Montgomery civil rights march was hard-hitting in this period of Hollywood's history. Common returned to the Oscar stage alongside Day, and delivered an equally relevant and moving performance of a nominated song.
Common began the performance with what sounded like a spoken word poem, telling the Oscar audience:
On Oscar night, this is the dream we tell. A land where dreamers live and freedom dwells. Immigrants get the benefits, we put up monuments for the feminists, tell the NRA they in God's way, and to the people of Parkland, we say 'asé.' Sentiments of love for the people, from Africa, Haiti to Puerto Rico.
Recognizing such current events solidified the performance as taking an active stance against the world's injustice. Common's free styling led into Day's performance of the regular song, and as she continued along, individual spotlights slowly revealed a group of people behind the two singers. Variety reports that these participants were actually activists contacted personally by Common and Day to join the performance.
While introducing the group, Dave Chapelle shared that the activists' moments in the spotlight were literally meant to highlight those who fight for social justice daily. Representatives from Black Lives Matters, the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, the Standing Rock Youth Council, and more were included in the performance. Tarana Burke, the first person to coin the phrase "Me Too," also joined the activists.
Speaking to Variety, Common explained the decision to incorporate the hard-working activists into the performance:
I thought, ‘What if we got people who really do the work?' People who are true activists out in the world and on the front line. People whose lives, whether by circumstance, have become prime movers for change. This is the place for politics. It’s a platform where people from all walks of life watch. When we won our Oscar [for “Glory” in 2016], John Legend quoted Nina Simone: ‘It’s the artist’s responsibility to speak to the times.’ Sometimes you have to look beyond your community as well. When it comes to women’s rights and the #MeToo movement, I have to be in tune with that and see what I can do to help as a man. I’m a human being that cares.
Also included among the activists were 8-year-old Syrian refugee Bana al-Abed and founder of #GirlsLikeUs, Janet Mock. The effort to include representatives of as many social movements as possible definitely shone through, and Day felt that doing so helped share the "essence of the song." She told Variety:
These are all people who have fought through their own personal pain to make things better for themselves and for others. The other message is [to] have people from so many different walks of life... My prayer is that seeing these people and what they do is that catalyst to find the courage to stand up and to serve. I’m of the opinion that, as people, in our essence, we were designed to serve each other and society at large.
If you asked Twitter, the two definitely succeeded in pulling off a moment inclusive of so many kinds of lives.
While Coco's "Remember Me" ultimately snagged the Best Song win, the performance of "Stand Up For Something" will likely be what gets people talking at your Monday work meetings. Props to Common and Day for using their allotted time to deliver an important message.