Matthew A. Cherry and Karen Rupert Toliver accepted the Academy Award for best animated short film for Cherry's project, Hair Love, at Sunday night's Oscars.
Hair Love tells the story of a dad struggling to do his daughter's hair for the first time and was inspired by Cherry's own experiences as a father. The film was funded by a Kickstarter campaign set up by Cherry back in 2017.
"Hair Love was done because we wanted to see more representation in animation," Cherry said during his acceptance speech. "We wanted to normalize black hair. There's a very important issue that's out there, the CROWN Act, and if we can't help to get this passed in all 50 states it will help stories like DeAndre Arnold's who's our special guest tonight."
Cherry invited student Deadre Arnold, a senior at Barbers Hill High School in Mont Belvieu, as guests after the teen was suspended by the school after he refused to cut his beautiful long locs.
"It's truly an honor to have the platform to be able to invite Deandre and his family as our guest to the Oscars next Sunday," Cherry told CNN after extending the invitation. "Deandre is such a good kid, and he shouldn't be punished for his hair. And we love that he didn't bend to the pressure to cut it."
"We think his hair is beautiful, and this is the least we could do to support him and show him, love," Cherry added.
Cherry also paid tribute to the first, Kobe Bryant, who won an Oscar for best animated short for Dear Basketball, which was based on a poem he wrote. Bryant was the first former athlete to win the award, and Cherry is now the second.
"May we all have a second act as great as his was."