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NAJEE’S NOTES: 89th Academy Awards is black night at the Oscars

Black night at the Oscars, more commonly known as the 89th Academy Awards ceremony, presented by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, honored the best films of 2016 Feb. 26 at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood.

I called it black night at the Oscars because of the historic number of black Oscar winners.

History was not only made by the number of collective wins among stars of color but also by shattered records within many of the individual categories, too. Barry Jenkins and Tarell Alvin McCraney won for best adapted screenplay for “Moonlight,” which also won for best picture.

Viola Davis took home the Oscar for best supporting actress for her role in “Fences,” becoming the first black woman to win an Oscar, Tony and Emmy award for acting. Mahershala Ali became the first black Muslim actor to win an Oscar when he took home the award for best supporting actor for his stunning role in “Moonlight” and director Ezra Edelman won alongside filmmaker Caroline Waterlow for best documentary feature for “O.J.: Made in America.”

Until this year, the most diverse winners group occurred at the 2009 Academy Awards when three black stars won Oscars. That was an amazing feat and we should commend our African-American talent for finally being recognized after years of no black nominees being honored in the major categories.

That prompted the #oscarssowhite hashtag which was used internationally to highlight the injustice and straight out racial bias black talent faces in Hollywood to be recognized by their peers. The hashtag was catchy, but that wasn’t enough. It was time to call Hollywood out for its racism.

This writer, who also has done a little bit of activism during the past 25 years, decided enough is enough. It was time to take on the Academy, it’s leadership and voting members head on.

I contacted my fellow activists and various civil rights leaders: Earl Ofari Hutchinson, president of the L.A. Urban Policy Roundtable; Rev. K.W. Tulloss, president of the National Action Network; and Donald Bakeer, board member of Project Islamic Hope.

Together we formed the nucleus of leaders who called for a national boycott and protest of the Oscars. As the lead organizer, I was confident we would win.

Even though our main critics and naysayers were our fellow civil rights groups and fellow black activists. I can name them publicly. But they know who they are and so do you.

Instead of fighting for the people, They were too busy, buck dancing, cooning, and trying to get a check from Hollywood and Academy leaders.

Our coalition was undeterred. We had the people on our side and we had the biggest weapon of all coming in for our protest. The nation’s foremost civil rights leader, the Rev Al Sharpton, showed up to help lead our Oscars protest last year, which guaranteed international attention.

Even the host of the Oscars, Chris Rock, during his opening remarks broadcast worldwide mentioned Sharpton being outside protesting. Our advocacy demanding change in the academy and more diversity couldn’t be ignored.

The Oscar’s boycott worked with viewership being down. And our activism and protest demanding more diversity was the talk of the town last year after the Oscars and not who won.

So, with all due respect to folks who are patting Academy CEO Cheryl Boone Issacs on the back for the changes she made in the academy, the real heroes of black night at the Oscars are all the activists and groups who took a stand and demanded she make those changes. I’m glad she complied with our demands.

But the reality is she didn’t make the changes out of the goodness of her heart. Black people and black Hollywood should give credit where credit is due. Without the black activists in the streets demanding change, things would have stayed the same.

There is no way black talent would have won all those Oscars had it not been for black activists raising hell. Even with us, Denzel Washington still got robbed!

As the lead organizer, the past couple of years of the Oscar’s protest’s and boycotts, I say thank you to all the activist, artists and groups who took a stand.

And finally, March 7 is Election Day. These are my recommendations of leaders and ballot measures that will continue to improve the quality of life in our city:

Los Angeles Mayor — Eric Garcetti

Los Angeles City Attorney — Mike Feuer

Los Angeles City Controller — Ron Galperin

Los Angeles City Council: — District 1 – Gil Cedillo, District 7 — Monica Rodriguez, District 9 – Curren Price, District 11- Mike Bonin, District 13 – Mitch O’Farrell, District 15 – Joe Buscaino.

Los Angeles Community College District: District 4 – Dallas Fowler.

Los Angeles Unified School District: Seat 4 – Steve Zimmer

Gardena Mayor — Mark Henderson

Gardena City Council — Shannon Lawrence

Los Angeles County — Measure H – Yes.

Los Angeles City: Measure M – Yes, Measure N – No, Measure S — No, Measure P – Yes.

34th Congressional District Special Election April 4 — Jimmy Gomez.

Najee Ali

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