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The Blue & Gray Press | December 15, 2017

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Issues of lack of diversity arise following Oscar nominations

Issues of lack of diversity arise following Oscar nominations

By DELLA HETHCOX

The Oscar nominations for the 88th Annual Academy Awards were released last week and the rage from many inside the entertainment industry was palpable. Celebrities took to twitter to decry the obvious lack of diversity among the nominations.

Some celebrities, like Jada Pinkett-Smith and Spike Lee, went as far as to refuse their attendance at the February ceremony, as well as encouraging others to boycott the seeminglyexclusive event. On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Pinkett-Smith and Lee took to Facebook and Instagram to express their dissatisfaction and disappointment with the nominee list.

In a two and a half minute video clip posted on Facebook, Pinkett Smith sat on a couch and asked her viewers a question, and proposed her plan for the future.

“Today is Martin Luther King’s birthday and I can’t help but ask the question, ‘Is it time that people of color recognize how much power, influence that we have amassed that we no longer need to ask to be invited anywhere?’ I ask the question, ‘Have we now come to a new time and place where we recognize that we can no longer beg for the love, acknowledgment or respect of any group?’ That maybe it’s time we recognize that if we love and respect and acknowledge ourselves in the way in which we are asking others to do, that that is the place of true power?’ I’m simply asking a question. Here’s what I believe. The Academy has the right to acknowledge whomever they choose, to invite whomever they choose and now I think that it’s our responsibility now to make the change. Maybe it is time we pull back our resources and we put them back into our communities, into our programs, and we make programs for ourselves that acknowledge us in ways that we see fit, that are just as good as the so-called mainstream ones? I don’t know, but here is what I do know… Begging for acknowledgement, or even asking, diminishes dignity and diminishes power and we are a dignified people and we are powerful and let’s not forget it. So let’s let the Academy do them with all grace and love and let’s do us differently.”

On his instagram account, Lee wrote an essay similar to Pinkett Smith’s, accompanied by a picture of King Jr. “People, the truth is we ain’t in those rooms and until minorities are, the Oscar nominees will remain lilly (sic) white,” Lee wrote.

Celebrities and non-celebrities alike took to Twitter to continue the discussion, using the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite. Many people noticed the obvious snub of Wiz Khalifa’s song “See You Again” featuring pop star Charlie Puth.

Actor Daniel Oyelowo, in a speech at the King Legacy Awards, urged those in the industry toexamine the way in which the Academy chooses nominees. Oyelowo knows firsthand what it feels like to have been snubbed, as last year “Selma” was passed over by the Academy despite its popularity among critics.

“This institution doesn’t reflect its president and it doesn’t reflect this room. I am anAcademy member and it doesn’t reflect me, and it doesn’t reflect this nation,” Oyelowo said.

Cheryl Boone Isaacs, president of the Academy, issued a response on Jan. 18 saying that “We (the Academy) have implemented changes to diversify our membership in the last four years. But the change is not coming as fast as we would like. We need to do more, andbetter and more quickly.”

Despite the Academy’s statement, it seems unlikely that celebrities, and the public, will let this issue go. The ceremony will take place Feb. 28, and it remains to be seen if morecelebrities will boycott the event along with Pinkett Smith and Lee.