Entertainment Lead Story Movies West Edition

Academy goes for increased diversity; critics say ‘not enough’

LOS ANGELES — The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences’ decision to add 683 new members to its organization last week is not enough to correct the lack of diversity in Oscar voting, according to a local civil rights activist.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson, president of the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable, acknowledges the step that has been taken cosmetically to correct the gender and racial criticism the Academy has received and how it still protects the white male dominance of the industry.

The skewed attitudes and policies toward minorities are still at play and this will not change “until there is a massive restructure of the Academy board, membership and voting procedures as well as the creation of more opportunities for minorities in front of and behind the cameras,” Hutchinson said.

Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs announced the appointment last week of new members who are 46 percent female and 41 percent people of color. Although the appointments took a large step in diversifying the Academy, they produced only a slight change overall demographically.

Should invitees accept their invitations, the Academy’s percentage of female members will rise from 25 percent to 27 percent and members of color will rise from 8 people to 11 percent overall.

Every year, a new list of filmmakers, actors and other members of the film industry are invited to join the Academy. However’s this year is notably the largest and most diverse.

“We’re proud to welcome these new members to the Academy, and know they view this as an opportunity and not just an invitation, a mission and not just a membership,” Isaacs said.

The newcomers include actors Idris Elba (“Beasts of No Nation” “Pacific Rim”), Regina King (“Ray” “Jerry Maguire”), Loretta Devine (“Crash” “I Am Sam”), Nia Long (“Keanu” “Boyz N The Hood”), and Anika Nona Rose (“For Colored Girls” “Dreamgirls”).

Stars took to Twitter to share the excitement regarding their new membership status.

“Thanks everyone for all the well wishes – my invite from the academy. I was shocked by it, I did not see it coming.” Devine said.

“Thank you @TheAcademy for inviting me to the class of 2016. I’m inspired and honored. Wow!” Long said.

“I’d like to thank @TheAcademy! … for welcoming me (& so many fabulous artists) to the class of 2016,” Rose tweeted.

Amma Asante, Melvin Van Peebles, and Julie Dash are a few directors who were added to the branch of directors.

Dash said she is optimistic regarding what the new class means for the Academy as a whole.

She thanked the Academy and others via Twitter for “taking action beyond the debate, [and] for boldly shaping the future.”

Newcomers to the music branch included artists such as Mary J. Blige, Raphael Saadiq, and Will.i.am.

O’Shea “Ice Cube” Jackson (writer, actor), Keenan Ivory Wayans (writer, director), Ryan Coogler (writer, director) along with 15 others were invited to join the Academy by multiple branches and will have to select one branch upon accepting membership.

Members of the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable and other civil rights leaders were not impressed by the Academy’s efforts. They referred to the increase in numbers as “tokenism” and insist that the organization is still “so white.”

“The ramp up in numbers seems impressive only in comparison to the dismal numbers of minority and women voting in prior years,” the group said in a statement.

In a press release issued as part of the announcement, Isaacs said: “This class continues our long-term commitment to welcoming extraordinary talent reflective of those working in film today. We encourage the larger creative community to open its doors wider and create opportunities for anyone interested in working in this incredible and storied industry.”