ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The 94th Annual Academy Awards was a very special milestone in St. Petersburg as local Will Packer led the first Oscars all-Black production team.
“Tonight is really a celebration of Will Packer and what he means to our community and the barriers that he's breaking as the first Black producer for the Oscars tonight,” St. Petersburg’s first African American Mayor Ken Welch said at a watch party Sunday night.
Mayor Welch hosted the watch party at the Woodson African American Museum of Florida in honor of Will Packer.
Packer was born and raised in St Petersburg. He attended St. Petersburg High School and Florida A&M. He’s now known for producing movies like Stomp The Yard and Straight Out of Compton.
In 2016, Packer voiced his concern with the award show and his disappointment in the lack of diversity.
Packer told ABC in an interview, “The people that I put on that stage and in that platform, I want them to look like people from all stripes, all industries, various backgrounds, but all movie lovers.”
And, that showed on stage.
The awards started off with Venus and Serena Williams opening a performance by Beyonce singing “Be Alive," featured on the soundtrack “King Richard” about the tennis legends and their father, played by Will Smith.
The Oscars also featured its first all-female host team with Regina Hall, Amy Schumer and Wanda Sykes.
The Woodson African American Museum of Florida was more than happy to host the party in Packer’s honor.
“The opportunity that it presents for our city and for us to preserve, present, interpret and celebrate African American history,” Executive Director Terri Lipsey Scott said.
About a hundred people turned out to support, which included former teachers of Packer.
“I was a teacher at Bay Point Middle School in 1987,” said Darren Hammond, “Will Packer was the eighth-grade student council president and I was the math teacher.”
Beyond the screen Sunday, Mayor Welch said it’s people like Packer that pave the way.
“His is a story that you really can accomplish anything that you want to and for the kids that live in this area, it's a story we need to tell,” he said.
Welch also proclaimed March 27 “Will Packer night at the Oscars” day in St. Petersburg.
Welch added that Packer was one of his honorary advisers for his transition.
“We're talking about some things that he can do to help connect the kids in our community with our youth empowerment agenda,” he said.