Just a few days ago, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences revealed the 2016 Oscar nominations, and they were not without controversy. Many noticed a major lack of diversity, with no African-Americans nominated for Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor or Best Supporting Actress this year. Many analysts believed that several African-American actors are directors were overlooked this year, such as Creed director Ryan Coogler, Beasts of No Nation star Edris Elba and Concussion star Will Smith. Over the weekend, director Spike Lee and actress Jada Pinkett Smith both revealed that they will be boycotting The Academy Awards this year. Take a look at Spike Lee’s full statement that he made on his Instagram page.
“#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 When It Happens.” People, The Truth Is We Ain’t In Those Rooms And Until Minorities Are, The Oscar Nominees Will Remain Lilly White.”
Actress Jada Pinkett Smith made her announcement through a video on her official Facebook page. It isn’t known if her husband Will Smith will also be boycotting the awards, but we’ll have to wait and see. Here’s a portion of the actress’ statement, which includes a message to this year’s Oscar host Chris Rock.
“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. Begging for acknowledgement or even asking [to be nominated] diminishes dignity. It 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. Chris, I will not be at the Academy Awards and I won’t be watching but I can’t think of a better man to do the job at hand this year then you my friend. Good luck.”
It remains to be seen if any other African-American filmmakers and/or actors will join Spike Lee and actress Jada Pinkett Smith in boycotting this year’s awards ceremony. Today marks the national holiday celebrating Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday, so we’ll have to wait and see if this news causes others to join in the Oscar boycott.