Protests are planned Sunday across the country to bring attention to the lack of diversity in this year’s Academy Award nominations. Many entertainers have announced they will boycott the Oscar ceremony to show their discontent regarding this pressing issue in the hopes that the Academy will reform the manner in which it makes its nominations, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Ahead of the star studded Academy Awards event, security is now preparing in Hollywood for the demonstrations expected to take place. Channel 24 reports that the protests came about because 2016 is the “second straight year of all-white acting nominees…” The Dolby Theatre, where Sunday night’s ceremony is being held is “heavily guarded by security… with protests planned near the red carpet…” according to Channel 24.
Rev. Al Sharpton is in Hollywood to draw attention to the issue as part of the #OscarsSoWhite boycott. The Los Angeles Times reports that Sharpton spoke at the First AME Church of Los Angeles Sunday morning, telling the congregation, “In 2016, a year when we saw movies like Idris Elba’s Beasts of No Nation and Straight Out of Compton and Concussion, not one of these actors and actresses of color was nominated for their roles… There are no blacks who can green light a film. We can put a black family in the White House, but we can’t put a black in the boardroom of power in Hollywood.”
Preaching during 8am PST Sunday morning service at Second Baptist Church in LA. pic.twitter.com/pKhl9wNchF
— Reverend Al Sharpton (@TheRevAl) February 28, 2016
Sharpton continued by saying putting pressure on Hollywood will “start a movement,” adding that the protests are about the entertainment industry itself and not about the artists involved.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the 88th annual Academy Awards is being hosted by black actor and comedian, Chris Rock, who has helmed the event once before. This prompted Sharpton to tell the congregation of the First AME Church of Los Angeles, “People ask me, ‘What about Chris Rock, aren’t you friends?” The reverend continued with, “He tells me jokes. I tell the truth. We get along fine.”
NBC News Los Angeles reports that Sharpton’s National Action Network plans to stage demonstrations nationally in locations such as Atlanta, Cleveland, Detroit, Miami, New York, and Washington D.C. The purpose is for people to become unified in order to promote diversity and inclusion within the entertainment industry and Hollywood by encouraging people to boycott the Academy Awards.
Following his appearance at the First AME Church of Los Angeles, Sharpton held a news conference on the grounds of a mansion adjacent to the former abode of Hattie McDaniel. Seventy-six years ago, McDaniel became the first black artist to be nominated and win an Academy Award, according to Refinery 29. McDaniel won her Oscar during the 12th annual Academy Awards for Best Supporting Actress in the iconic film Gone With the Wind for playing a slave maid called Mammy.
— Hollywood Reporter (@THR) February 25, 2016
According to The Root, variations of the #OscarsSoWhite protest are not novel concepts, as black people have been speaking out about lack of representation and diversity in film for 100 years. The website notes that in 1915, the NAACP called for The Birth of a Nation to be censored and then banned, which never happened even though nationwide protests took place. This spawned several black produced films in 1916 that featured black families, soldiers, and heroes. In the years that followed, several black filmmakers, including Melvin Van Peebles, Spike Lee, Julie Dash, Zeinubu Irene Davis, and many others challenged the stereotypical representations of blacks in film and created movies with black-centered narratives, The Root reports.
Despite this, in 2016, no Academy Award nominees in the acting and directing categories are black. According to NBC News Los Angeles, the problem is not only with the Academy, but is prevalent in the entertainment industry with “studio decision-makers being primarily white men.”
Statistically, those who vote on Academy Award nominations are predominantly white and overwhelmingly male. According to a 2012 Los Angeles Times report, 94 percent of Oscar voters were white, while 77 percent were male. By 2016 not much had changed, as 91% of Oscar voters are white and 76 percent are men, while only three percent are black, and only two percent are Asian and Latino, the Los Angeles Times reports. The report also indicates that at this rate, the academy’s make up is likely to remain predominantly white and male for decades to come because there are “6,261 voting members appointed for life…”
[Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images]