Calls for Oscars boycott grow over diversity of nominees

Calls for Oscars boycott grow over diversity of nominees

"Begging for acknowledgement, or even asking, diminishes dignity and diminishes power," Pinkett Smith said.
Updated 20 Jan, 2016

NEW YORK: Amid calls for a boycott of the Academy Awards over its all-white acting nominees and Spike Lee and Jada Pinkett Smith both announcing they would sit out this year's ceremony, the academy's president said it was time for major changes — and soon.

Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences President Cheryl Boone Isaacs issued a statement promising more diversity, and quickly, after both Lee and Pinkett spoke out on Monday.

In a lengthy Instagram post, Lee said he "cannot support" the "lily white" Oscars. Noting that he was writing on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Lee — who in November was given an honorary Oscar at the Governors Awards — said he was fed up: "Forty white actors in two years and no flava at all," he wrote. "We can't act?!"

#OscarsSoWhite... Again. I Would Like To Thank President Cheryl Boone Isaacs And The Board Of Governors Of The Academy Of Motion Pictures Arts And Sciences For Awarding Me an Honorary Oscar This Past November. I Am Most Appreciative. However My Wife, Mrs. Tonya Lewis Lee And I Will Not Be Attending The Oscar Ceremony This Coming February. We Cannot Support It And Mean No Disrespect To My Friends, Host Chris Rock and Producer Reggie Hudlin, President Isaacs And The Academy. But, How Is It Possible For The 2nd Consecutive Year All 20 Contenders Under The Actor Category Are White? And Let's Not Even Get Into The Other Branches. 40 White Actors In 2 Years And No Flava At All. We Can't Act?! WTF!! It's No Coincidence I'm Writing This As We Celebrate The 30th Anniversary Of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's Birthday. Dr. King Said "There Comes A Time When One Must Take A Position That Is Neither Safe, Nor Politic, Nor Popular But He Must Take It Because Conscience Tells Him It's Right". For Too Many Years When The Oscars Nominations Are Revealed, My Office Phone Rings Off The Hook With The Media Asking Me My Opinion About The Lack Of African-Americans And This Year Was No Different. For Once, (Maybe) I Would Like The Media To Ask All The White Nominees And Studio Heads How They Feel About Another All White Ballot. If Someone Has Addressed This And I Missed It Then I Stand Mistaken. As I See It, The Academy Awards Is Not Where The "Real" Battle Is. It's In The Executive Office Of The Hollywood Studios And TV And Cable Networks. This Is Where The Gate Keepers Decide What Gets Made And What Gets Jettisoned To "Turnaround" Or Scrap Heap. This Is What's Important. The Gate Keepers. Those With "The Green Light" Vote. As The Great Actor Leslie Odom Jr. Sings And Dances In The Game Changing Broadway Musical HAMILTON, "I WANNA BE IN THE ROOM WHERE IT HAPPENS". People, The Truth Is We Ain't In Those Rooms And Until Minorities Are, The Oscar Nominees Will Remain Lilly White. (Cont'd)

A photo posted by Spike Lee (@officialspikelee) on

In a video message on Facebook, Pinkett Smith also said she wouldn't attend or watch the Oscars in February. Pinkett Smith, whose husband Will Smith wasn't nominated for his performance in the NFL head trauma drama "Concussion," said it was time for people of color to disregard the Academy Awards.

"Begging for acknowledgement, or even asking, diminishes dignity and diminishes power," she said. "And we are a dignified people and we are powerful."

She added: "Let's let the academy do them, with all grace and love. And let's do us differently." The video had amassed 4.5 million by mid-Monday afternoon.

We must stand in our power!

We must stand in our power.

Posted by Jada Pinkett Smith on Monday, January 18, 2016

Last year's all-white acting nominees also drew calls for a boycott, though not from such prominent individuals as Lee and Pinkett Smith. Whether it had any impact or not, the audience for the broadcast, hosted by Neil Patrick Harris, was down 16 percent from the year prior, a six-year low.

Isaacs has made a point of presenting a more inclusive show this year. The Feb. 28 broadcast will be hosted by Chris Rock and produced by "Django Unchained" producer Reginald Hudlin and David Hill. On Saturday, Rock, unveiling a new promotion for the broadcast, called the ceremony "The White BET Awards."

When Oscar nominations were announced Thursday, Isaacs acknowledged she was "disappointed" that all 20 acting nominees were again white and promised to "continue the conversation" on diversity.

Isaacs has worked to diversify membership for the academy, which a 2012 study by the Los Angeles Times found is overwhelming white and male.

But on Monday, Isaacs was more explicit and promised an examination of the academy and a more intense drive to diversify.

Oscar nominees are shown in this combination of file photos.─Reuters
Oscar nominees are shown in this combination of file photos.─Reuters

"This is a difficult but important conversation, and it's time for big changes," she said in a statement released Monday night. "The Academy is taking dramatic steps to alter the makeup of our membership. In the coming days and weeks we will conduct a review of our membership recruitment in order to bring about much-needed diversity in our 2016 class and beyond."

Many awards handicappers expected nominations for Idris Elba of "Beasts of No Nation" and Benicio Del Toro for "Sicario." The N.W.A. biopic "Straight Outta Compton" also failed to earn a best picture nomination, despite some predictions it would.

Rapper and actor Snoop Dogg's tweet

Ryan Coogler's acclaimed Rocky sequel "Creed" scored a nomination only for Sylvester Stallone. (Lee's own movie, the Chicago gang violence hip-hop musical "Chi-Raq" — celebrated by some and scorned by others — also went unnoticed.)

The hashtag "OscarsSoWhite," created last year, was quickly resurrected online following the nominations.

Film maker Michael Moore too announced to join the protest

The Rev. Al Sharpton — who last year met with former Sony head Amy Pascal following leaked emails that some viewed as racist — on Friday lambasted the academy.

"Hollywood is like the Rocky Mountains, the higher up you get the whiter it gets and this year's Academy Awards will be yet another Rocky Mountain Oscar," said Sharpton.

"The Academy Awards is not where the 'real' battle is," wrote Lee. ─ Photo: Spike Lee Facebook page
"The Academy Awards is not where the 'real' battle is," wrote Lee. ─ Photo: Spike Lee Facebook page

In his post, Lee made it clear the Academy Awards is only part of the problem in an industry with deep-rooted diversity issues. In his Governors Awards speech, Lee said, "It's easier to be the president of the United States as a black person than be the head of a studio."

"The Academy Awards is not where the 'real' battle is," wrote Lee.

"It's in the executive office of the Hollywood studios and TV and cable networks.

This is where the gate keepers decide what gets made and what gets jettisoned to 'turnaround' or scrap heap. This is what's important. The gate keepers. Those with 'the green light' vote."


Philosopher (from Japan) Jan 20, 2016 12:23am
I think they are right in protest it's sheer racism.
syed Jan 20, 2016 12:51am
I watched "Concussion" and would like to reiterate that i am extremely disappointed not seen Will smith name on nomination, the way this . If they cannot resolve this issue through reasonable channels, It will be forced to find alternate solutions to appreciate colors actors works which will be a disaster to industry, I am confident they will find a way.In west every thing is possible but America is not as said in Concussion.
Realist Jan 20, 2016 01:02am
They should try to act better instead of crying.
Sasa Jan 20, 2016 01:21am
Most of the black movies (produced, directed, and acted by African American) are not Oscar worthy. African American does fantastic acting when they act in a mainstream movies. Always discrimition taboo does not ring any bell to me, at least .
Omar Jan 20, 2016 01:31am
You cannot bully your way to nomination. One of two places where there is very little evidence of racism is entertainment and sports. This lady and her husband should realize the millions they have made in this very "racist" hollywood. I would be very careful before alleging nonsense.
Dare Jan 20, 2016 02:05am
Kolsat Jan 20, 2016 02:53am
Even the artist community who vote for nominations seem to be racist. goes to show that the US for its declarations of equality and democracy is not an equal or even democratic society..
Akil Akhtar Jan 20, 2016 03:33am
The west is and has always been very racist....
J Russ Jan 20, 2016 04:13am
Earth to Jaba, Spike, and fellow nitwits, The Oscars are about artistic merit not political diversity. Holding your breath and stomping your feet doesn't work with grownups. News flash spoiled children, we don't always get what we want, it's called grown up reality. And to add insult to injury, you won't be missed.
Jawad , USA Jan 20, 2016 04:13am
Sharmeen chinoy is colored too.
Zubair Jan 20, 2016 11:22am
This really isn't Leo's year is it..
Mughni Jan 20, 2016 11:56am
Racism will be there forever, no matter how many laws are made against it. But it doesn't mean that we just sit there and take it on our chin. We must continue to work against it. I support the efforts being done to minimize it in our societies.
Umer Jan 20, 2016 01:00pm
Maybe, just maybe, their performance wasn't up to the level of the performance of the other nominees?
Aman Jan 20, 2016 01:37pm
if The Martian nominated for best actor male then Concussion deserve nomination too !!!