Spike Lee, Jada Pinkett Smith to boycott Oscars over all-white nominees
LOS ANGELES, USA (UPDATED) – Acclaimed filmmaker Spike Lee said Monday, January 18 that he is boycotting the Oscars next month because for the second year in a row all the nominees in the actor categories are white. (READ: Outrage as black actors absent from Oscars lineup)
Separately, black actress Jada Pinkett Smith said she too would not be attending the February 28 star-studded ceremony.
Lee, an African American and previous Oscar winner, posted an open letter to the president and board of governors of the Academy Awards on Instagram. The post was accompanied by a photo of Martin Luther King, on the US holiday honoring the slain civil rights leader.
#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 WHERE IT HAPPENS". People, The Truth Is We Ain't In Those Rooms And Until Minorities Are, The Oscar Nominees Will Remain Lilly White. (Cont'd)
"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?!"
absence of minoritiesLee, who won an Oscar last year for his lifetime achievements as a filmmaker and actor, blamed the executives who run Hollywood studios for the in Oscar-contending roles. (READ: 2016 Oscars: Reactions from the nominees)
"People, the truth is we ain't in those rooms and until minorities are, the Oscar nominees will remain lilly white," wrote Lee, who is well known for his outspoken comments.
He suggested that Hollywood follow the lead of the National Football League, which requires that minorities be interviewed for head coach and senior executive positions when those are being filled.
"It's worth the effort or it will be the same old hi-jinks," he said.
The Academy on Thursday announced the nominees for this year's awards, hosted by black comedian Chris Rock.
No sooner than the nominations had been announced, than the glaring absence of black actors or directors set social media abuzz under the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite.
In a video on Facebook, Smith, the wife of actor-singer Will Smith, said: "Begging for acknowledgement or even asking diminishes dignity and diminishes power, and we are a dignified people and powerful."
"Hey Chris," she added, in apparent reference to the host.
"I won't 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 than you, my friend. Good luck."
Academy head 'heartbroken'
Following an outcry over the all-white roster of actors nominated for this year's Oscars, the president of the film academy said Monday she was heartbroken by the lack of diversity and working to implement change.
"This is a difficult but important conversation, and it's time for big changes," Cheryl Boone Isaacs, president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, said in a statement.
Isaacs said that while it was important to acknowledge the work of the actors nominated for the awards being given out on February 28, she was "both heartbroken and frustrated about the lack of inclusion."
Isaacs, who is black, has pushed for more diversity in the Academy's ranks since her election in 2013.
But she acknowledged in her statement that "change is not coming as fast as we would like."
"We need to do more, and better and more quickly," she said.
"In the '60s and '70s it was about recruiting younger members to stay vital and relevant. In 2016, the mandate is inclusion in all of its facets: gender, race, ethnicity and sexual orientation."
The Academy has some 6,000 members, all of whom work in the film industry and are elected by their peers for life.
According to a 2012 study by the Los Angeles Times, nearly 94 percent of the Academy voters are white and mostly male. The Times found that blacks account for two percent of the Academy and Latinos are less than two percent.
Oscar voters have a median age of 62, the Times study showed, and people younger than 50 constitute 14 percent of the membership.
Janet Hubert's reaction
Meanwhile, Janet Hubert, who co-starred with Will Smith on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, reacted to Jada's video, saying that the world has bigger problems than actors and the Oscars.
"And here's the other thing, for you to ask other actors, and other black actresses and actors, too, to jeopardize their career and their standing in a town that you know damn well, you don't do that," added Hubert. And here's the other thing – they don't care. They don't care! And I find it ironic that somebody who has made their living, made their living and made millions and millions of dollars from the very people you're talking about boycotting, just because you didn't get a nomination, just because you didn't win."
In a previous interview, Hubert said that she left The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air because they asked her not to take on other jobs aside from the show. She admitted that there was some bad blood between herself and the other stars on the show.
In her video response to Jada, Hubert said that she remembered asking Will's help to ask the network to give the actors a better deal, to which she recalled Will replying "'My deal is my deal, and your deal is your deal.'
"Well karma must be a b-tch, cause now here you are. Here you are, you've had a few flops and you know there are those out there who really deserved a nod," said Hubert.
Watch her reaction video below: