Following announcements of an Oscar boycott, the president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences said she was taking action to correct the organization’s lack of diversity.
“The Academy is taking dramatic steps to alter the makeup of our membership,” the group’s president, Cheryl Boone Isaacs, said in a statement sent to reporters Monday evening. “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.”
The statement by Isaacs, who is African-American, came several hours after the filmmaker Spike Lee and the actress Jada Pinkett Smith announced they would not attend the Oscars in protest of the Academy’s second straight year of nominating all white actors. This year’s snubs included Idris Elba in “Beasts of No Nation,” Will Smith in “Concussion” and the cast of the bio-pic “Straight Outta Compton.” The controversy revived a disparaging hashtag from last year, #OscarsSoWhite, but the announcements by Lee and Pinkett Smith – timed to the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday – put increased pressure on Isaacs to act.
Isaacs came under additional pressure Monday night at a Los Angeles gala in her honor, where actor David Oyelowo presented her with an award named after the civil rights icon Rosa Parks. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Oyelowo – who was famously snubbed for his performance as Dr. King in “Selma” last year – broke from his prepared remarks and called upon Isaacs to bring about change in her organization.
“I am an Academy member and it doesn’t reflect me, and it doesn’t reflect this nation,” Oyelowo said. “The Academy is an institution in which they all say radical and timely change cannot happen quickly. It better happen quickly.”
Meanwhile, Pinkett Smith’s call for a boycott met with derision from Janet Hubert, who played Aunt Viv to Pinkett Smith’s husband, Will Smith, on the 1990s television series “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.”
“Does your man not have a mouth of his own with which to speak?” Hubert said in a four-minute video laced with expletives. “There’s a lot of [expletive] going on in the world that you all don’t seem to recognize. People are dying. Our boys are being shot left and right. People are hungry. People are starving... And you’re talking about some actors and Oscars. It just ain’t that deep.”