Oscar-winning actress Rita Moreno received the Stanley Kramer Award during the 33rd annual Producers Guild of America (PGA) Awards on Saturday evening (March 19).
During her acceptance speech, Moreno, who became the first Latine to ever win an Academy Award for her role in 1961’s West Side Story, described receiving the award as “meaningful” and “gratifying,” especially since it was named in honor of Kramer.
According to the PGA, the Stanley Kramer Award honors a production, producer, or other individuals whose “achievement or contribution illuminates and raises public awareness of important social issues.” Kramer was a producer and director of films like Inherit the Wind, The Defiant Ones, and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.
“I am 90 now and working for a lifetime in this business has taken tenacity and hard work,” Moreno said. “Advocating for issues of social justice for the last 60 years, it’s been exhausting, exhilarating, and life-giving. Had it not been for those steps and the fire set inside me as a young woman, I certainly would not be here tonight receiving this wondrous honor.”
Along with thanking the PGA for the accolades, Moreno also recalled the time she was present for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s iconic “I Have a Dream” speech at the March on Washington in 1963.
“In 1963, as I sat on Abraham Lincoln’s steps, only a few feet from Dr. King,” Moreno said. “I was there. I was there. I heard his best friend who was sitting next to him, Mahalia Jackson, cry out to him … ‘Tell them about the dream, Martin. Tell them about the dream.’ Because he had started a different speech, and she wanted people to hear about the dream. And thanks to an invitation from [singer] Harry Belafonte, I was there to hear the preacher’s dream.”
Every awards show should include a speech by Rita Moreno.