The Peabody Awards are given annually to celebrate meritorious work in electronic media, including television, radio, and online work. A group of media scholars, professionals, and critics undergo a pretty intense judging process in order to assess the quality of content, as opposed to judging it based on ratings, popularity, or commercial success. At their core, the Peabody Awards are committed to storytelling, which sets them apart from other award shows that recognize the individuals behind these projects. The Peabody’s are committed to uplifting “stories that matter.”
Earlier this week, the Peabody Awards Board of Jurors began announcing the 2016 winners, starting with the documentary category. On April 20, the board announced the recipients in entertainment. The results capture the stories that matter to all of us in a way that the Oscars, Grammys, and Emmys could never.
Beyoncé’s visual album, Lemonade, was included in the entertainment category and described as “a rich tapestry of poetic innovation” that “challenges our cultural imagination, while crafting a stunning and sublime masterpiece about the lives of women of color and the bonds of friendship seldom seen or heard in American popular culture.” Donald Glover’s FX hit, Atlanta, was also awarded for its mixing “of vibrant character study and rich socio-political commentary in delivering a detailed and textured exploration of a Southern city.”
It’s not surprising that Ava Duvernay’s 13th received an award in the documentary category. However, it was inspiring to also see Hip-Hop Evolution recognized for documenting the origins of a worldwide movement. And Southwest of Salem: The Story of the San Antonio Four — about a group of Latina lesbians from conservative Texas who were wrongly convicted of a violent crime in the ‘90s — inserts new voices into dialogues about racism, LGBTQ issues, and the criminal justice system.
We’ve been in an uphill battle to convince consumers and entertainment executives that the lives and stories of those on the margins matter. The list of Peabody winners not only cosigns this truth, but elaborates the ways these stories stand out. A good story narrates the lives and histories of individuals, but it also says something about the culture and world we live in. That is why we love Atlanta and Lemonade so much. It’s also why films like Get Out, Hidden Figures, and Moonlight have dominated the box office. If other award shows only seem to illuminate how far we have to go, the Peabody Awards are miles ahead, setting an example for how to get there.