Sheryl Lee Ralph gave an acceptance speech for the ages when she won the Emmy award last night for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series for her role as the veteran kindergarten teacher Barbara Howard, hilariously stern and supremely competent, on the ABC series “Abbott Elementary.” It was a “speech” that reflects her background in Broadway musicals; she’s performed in four, including “Wicked” and “Dreamgirls,” for which she was nominated for a Tony in 1981. After that early acclaim, she moved to Los Angeles, and struggled to find good roles — which makes her Emmy win all these decades later feel so sweet.
She sang the first verse of the song “Endangered Species,” which jazz singer Dianne Reeves introduced in 1994:
I am an endangered species
But I sing no victim’s song
I am a woman I am an artist
And I know where my voice belongs
Award, song and speech begin at around the four minute mark (4:00)