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St. Pete native leads first all-black production team at Oscars

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The 94th Annual Academy Awards was a very special stop in St. Petersburg as local Will Packer led the Oscars’ first all-black production crew.

“Tonight is truly a celebration of Will Packer and what he means to our community and the barriers he is breaking as the first black producer for the Oscars tonight,” said the first African-American mayor. St. Petersburg American Ken Welch at a watch party Sunday night.

Mayor Welch hosted the Watch Party at the Woodson African American Museum in 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 is now known for producing films like Stomp The Yard and Straight Out of Compton.

In 2016, Packer expressed concern over the awards show and disappointment over the lack of diversity.

Packer told ABC in an interview, “The people I put on this stage and on this platform, I want them to look like people from all walks of life, from all industries, from various walks of life, but all of them cinephiles.”

And it showed on stage.

The awards began with Venus and Serena Williams opening a performance of Beyonce singing “Be Alive,” featured on the “King Richard” soundtrack about the tennis legends and their father, played by Will Smith.

The Oscars also featured their first all-female host team with Regina Hall, Amy Schumer and Wanda Sykes.

The Woodson African American Museum in Florida was more than happy to host the party honoring Packer.

“The opportunity it presents for our city and for us to preserve, present, interpret and celebrate African American history,” said General Manager Terri Lipsey Scott.

About 100 people showed up to support, including former Packer teachers.

“I was a teacher at Bay Point Middle School in 1987,” Darren Hammond said, “Will Packer was the eighth grade student council president and I was the math teacher.”

Beyond the screen on Sunday, Mayor Welch said it’s people like Packer who lead the way.

“It’s a story that you can really achieve anything you want and for the children who live in this area, it’s a story that we need to tell,” he said.

Welch also proclaimed March 27 as “Will Packer night at the Oscars” day in St. Petersburg.

Welch added that Packer was one of his honorary advisers for his transition.

“We talk about some things he can do to help connect kids in our community with our youth empowerment program,” he said.