Ken Welch to co-host Oscars watch party as St. Pete native leads first all-Black production team
Image via The Academy.

Will Packer
St. Pete's Will Packer leads a historic team with a big task to resuscitate the struggling awards show.

It’s been seven years since social justice activists used the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite to shine a light on the mainstream film industry’s lack of racial diversity.

But on Sunday, for the first time in Academy Awards history, the Oscars — at least behind the scenes — will be all Black.

St. Petersburg native Will Packer — who produced Hollywood hits, Girls Trip, Straight Outta Compton, the Ride Along franchise and more — will lead the Oscar’s first all-Black production team as he attempts to resuscitate a struggling awards show, further felled in recent years by the COVID-19 pandemic.

And on Sunday, from the Dr. Carter G. Woodson African American Museum not far from where Packer grew up on the city’s south side, Ken Welch, St. Petersburg’s first Black Mayor, will co-host a watch party to celebrate Packer and his team.

“St. Petersburg is proud of Will Packer’s success in the film and entertainment industry, and thrilled that he is making history as part of the first all-Black production team for the Academy Awards,” Welch said. “He is setting an example for children and young adults anywhere that through hard work and dedication, anything can be achieved.” 

The red carpet has barely been unfurled in front of Los Angeles’ Dolby Theater, but Packer’s show is already causing a stir.

Firstly, he’s redefining a show facing a perilous future. Viewership in 2021 dropped 58% from 2020 with less than 10 million people watching. Before that, the show’s smallest viewership was around 29 million. One way the show is addressing that is to move eight categories to an untelevised first hour that will be clipped and spread throughout the show.

He’s also returning to a hosted format (the past three were host-less) in another history defining way. The show will be hosted by Regina Hall, Amy Schumer and Wanda Sykes. This is the first time a trio of women will host. He’s also bringing in some high-caliber performances like one by Beyoncé.

And there’s the added pressure of being first, something that runs in Packer’s family. His father was a civil rights activist in St. Pete and became the first Black student to graduate from the University of South Florida’s engineering school.

“It sounds good later after you’ve accomplished it,” Packer recently told the Tampa Bay Times. “But while you’re going through being the first it can be lonely, stressful and even dangerous. I saw my father take on challenges in life with his head held high and an extraordinary amount of confidence in himself. And then I saw him pay that forward to future generations that he had blazed trails for. That approach is exactly how I try to live my life and execute my career.”

And it’s the next generation of filmmakers and storytellers who Packer hopes to inspire with his take on an awards show. He said being seen can be a big deal for a young person with big dreams. Often, he said, people who don’t see or hear themselves being represented can feel like they are locked out of opportunities and pursuing their dreams. He hopes to change that.

“When you can have someone that sees themselves that says, ‘I can do it because somebody else who looks like me has done it,’ it unlocks potential and it unlocks a dream,” Packer told ABC’s On the Red Carpet.

“And when you have young people who dare to dream, young people of all stripes and backgrounds and ethnicities and orientations, when you have those folks saying, ‘I am daring to dream because I think it is possible,’ the sky’s the limit and we are better — not just as an industry, not just as a movie industry, but as a human race.”

Mayor Welch and the Dr. Carter G. Woodson African American Museum will host an Oscars watch party on Sunday, March 27 at 2240 Ninth Avenue South. Doors will open at 7 p.m. with Welch delivering remarks at 7:45. The broadcast starts at 8 p.m.

Daniel Figueroa IV

Bronx, NY —> St. Pete, Fla. Just your friendly, neighborhood journo junkie with a penchant for motorcycles and Star Wars. Daniel has spent the last decade covering Tampa Bay and Florida for the Ledger of Lakeland, Tampa Bay Times, and WMNF. You can reach Daniel Figueroa IV at [email protected]


3 comments

  • Brandon Cathey

    March 24, 2022 at 4:25 pm

    Good article, good info but I think you mean floundering, rather than fledgling.

  • Ann

    March 27, 2022 at 10:40 pm

    I don’t call this progress! He complained of “lack of radial diversity” yet he’s “thrilled that he is making history as part of the first all-Black production team for the Academy Awards”. How hypocritical! Does he not understand the meaning of diversity??

  • temo

    March 30, 2022 at 2:27 pm

    After witnessing will smith’s disgusting behavior, we can see where forced diversity has gotten us.

Comments are closed.


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