Another glass ceiling has finally been broken in Hollywood. On Sunday night, Dominican-American actor Jharrel Jerome became the first-ever Afro-Latino actor to win an Emmy for acting. Jerome won the award for his work in the Ava Duverney limited series “When They See Us”, where he portrayed the wrongly-convicted Korey Wise.
“When They See Us” is a Netflix-helmed production that revolves around the case of Raymond Santana, Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Korey Wise, and Yusef Salaam–a group of black and Latino young men who were wrongly convicted for the rape and assault of a female jogger. Jerome played the part of Korey Wise, the oldest of the group, and the only member who was forced to serve his term in the adult prison system. Years later, the true assailant admitted to the crime and the men were released from prison.
The limited-series has been praised for “adding a necessary layer of humanity” to the boys’ stories and challenging viewers to “reconsider what it means to find justice in America.”
The win was one of the most emotional wins of the night, with the audience erupting into applause and getting to its feet when Jerome won.
Notably among the audience were the members of “The Central Park Five”, whom Jerome referred to in his speech as “The Exonerated Five”. The men gave Jerome a standing ovation along with the rest of the crowd, all of them visibly emotional. Korey Wise, the man Jerome portrayed, was shown with tears running down his face during Jerome’s acceptance speech.
Jerome started the speech saying that he feels he should be “in the Bronx right now, chillin,’ waiting for my mom’s cooking, but I’m here”. He then went on to thank his family for their support, including his mother and his father. He lapsed into Spanish at one point, pointing to the sky and telling his deceased grandfather “te quiero”. Finally, he dedicated his award “Most importantly, this is for the men that we know as The Exonerated Five. Thank you so much. It’s an honor and a blessing.”
The win was a shock to audience and critics alike, as the category was stacked with heavy-hitters.
The competition was stiff among the limited-series nominees, with household names like Benecio Del Toro, Hugh Grant, Mahershala Ali, and Jared Harris among the actors. Jerome thanked his fellow nominees at the beginning of his speech, saying that he was “here with his inspirations” with people he was “so motivated by”. The win was not only surprising because of Jerome’s status as a newcomer, but also his age–the youngest actor ever to win in this category.
The significance of the occasion was not lost on Jerome, who said that he hoped it was a “step forward for Dominicans, for Latinos, for Afro-Latinos” in a backstage interview.
Backstage, Jerome was also candid about the impact of black and brown stories, and how their power lies in the truth they portray. “I think our strongest stories are the stories of pain, considering that’s what we go through on a regular basis,” he said. “I think the truth is our pain needs to be told.”
Always on board to celebrate the accomplishments of la Raza, Latinxs took to Twitter to express their joy at Jerome’s win.
Naturally, the news is cause for celebration. After all, it’s not every day that a young Dominican Afro-Latino from the Bronx wins an Emmy. Especially when he’s pitted against Oscar-winners and industry favorites.
This Latina took to Twitter to emphasize the significance of this event:
With Jerome’s win, history was literally made on Sunday night–that fact can’t be stated enough.
Even Lin Manuel Miranda got in on the action, expressing his pride:
It turns out that Miranda and Jerome had met before. What a beautiful example of Latinos supporting other Latinos!
This Latino was overcome with all of the emotion he was feeling from Jerome’s win.
It’s hard to express the pride one feels when seeing someone from their tribe make an impact on the world. This is why representation on our screens is so important.
This Dominicana had a thing or two to say about black and Latinx intersectionality:
Jerome’s win is the perfect teachable moment for people (included Latinxs) who struggle with the fact that there are black Latinos out there.
This Latina suggested a nation-wide day off for Dominican-Americans.
We don’t hate that idea. Every step forward should be celebrated.
Congratulations to Jharrel Jerome for a much-deserved win. We’re sure that we’ll be seeing him on our screens for years to come.