NAACP on Oscars: Change the channel

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Organization blasts Academy Awards for lack of racial diversity again

BY HAZEL TRICE EDNEY
TRICE EDNEY NEWS WIRE

The NAACP has suggested that television viewers “switch the channel – effectively boycotting the Oscars this year – after the Academy once again “severely overlooked’’ diversity in its top nominations.

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The live airing of the premiere celebrity event on ABC Feb. 28 will unveil a vastly White slate of performers. This same issue drew blistering criticism from the NAACP and other organizations last year.

“With the announcement of the nominees for the 88th Academy Awards, the contributions of people of color to the movie industry — both in front of and behind the cameras — have once again been severely overlooked,’’ said a Jan. 14 statement issued by the civil rights organization.

“Of the 20 acting nominations, including Best Actor and Actress and Best Supporting Actor and Actress, the Academy failed for a second year in a row to consider a single actor of color for this distinguished award. Diversity is not just good business, it’s the only business, and the 2014 ratings numbers show that.

“It’s time the Academy recognizes the value and the voice of people of color and until they do, we should switch the channel until that old guard can reflect and respect what people of color bring to the table.”

Just 15 Blacks
The 2014 Oscars, which had the most diverse slate of movies by filmmakers and actors of color, is what caused the ratings increase, the NAACP points out. That year the broadcast “boasted the most-watched telecast in 10 years with 43 million viewers.”

But then last year, not one African-American was nominated for acting or directing. The highest awards to African-Americans last year were to John Legend and Common as they received Oscars for the Best Original Song, “Glory” from the movie, “Selma.’’

In its 87-year-history of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, only 15 Oscars have gone to Black actors.

They are Lupita Nyong’o, 2014, “12 Years a Slave’’; Octavia Spencer, 2012, “The Help’’; Mo’Nique, 2009, “Precious’’; Forest Whitaker, 2006, “The Last King of Scotland’’; Jennifer Hudson, 2006, “Dreamgirls’’; Morgan Freeman, 2004, “Million Dollar Baby’’; Jamie Foxx, 2004, “Ray’’; Halle Berry, 2001, “Monster’s Ball’’; Cuba Gooding Jr., 1996, “Jerry Maguire’’; Whoopi Goldberg, 1991, “Ghost’’; Denzel Washington, 1989, “Glory,’’ and 2001, “Training Day’’; Louis Gossett Jr., 1982, “An Officer and a Gentleman’’; Sidney Poitier, 1963, “Lillies of the Field’’; and Hattie McDaniel, 1940, “Gone with the Wind.’’

‘Speed it up’
This year, “The Revenant’’ leads with 12 nominations, including Leonardo DiCaprio for best actor.

The acting categories are filled with all White performers.

Because of a lack of racial diversity in the Academy Awards, the NAACP, 47 years ago, created the NAACP Image Awards, to be aired Feb. 5 on TV One. Ironically, Academy president Cheryl Boone, an African-American woman, is a 2014 recipient of the Image Awards. In response to the vastly White nominees this year, she too has been critical.

“Of course I am disappointed,” Isaacs told the Huffington Post. “You are never going to know what is going to appear on the sheet of paper until you see it…We have got to speed it up.” She added, “But this is not to take away the greatness [of the films nominated]. This has been a great year in film, it really has across the board.”

Though Isaacs is credited for inviting Chris Rock to host the ceremony this year and for seeking to diversify the members of the Academy, the NAACP blames the continuing lack of diversity on a membership that it describes as “a private, invitational club of artists that lacks diversity by race and gender.  While a sprinkling of filmmakers from varied populations have been invited to join the Academy ranks, this organization neither reflects the global diversity of the world, or the many moviegoers who support the industry.”

‘Unbalanced relationship’
The NAACP cited stats from the 2013 Motion Picture Association of America’s Theatrical Market Statistics Report, saying that “people of color represented 51 percent of the frequent moviegoing audience – 32 percent of that audience was Latino, while African Americans represented 12 percent.”

The civil rights organization concludes, “These numbers alone reflect the unbalanced relationship people of color have with Hollywood. Our brothers, sisters and friends love and support film and art, yet the Academy Awards seldom recognize the numerous and notable contributions by people of color making and appearing in entertainment today.”

The statement indicates the NAACP will continue to fight by pressing the Academy membership to revisit “how it can play catch up to reflect a 21st century world.’’ The organization also indicates it may apply economic pressure by questioning “advertisers who support the Awards show.”

In 2014, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences received $97.3 million dollars in revenue “in large part to the domestic rights of its broadcast partner, ABC television, which has broadcast rights through 2020,” the NAACP states. “With the 2016 nomination results, our mission and efforts are as relevant today as they have been in the past.”

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