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NAJEE’S NOTES: Support for Oscars’ boycott growing

They did it again! For the second year in a row the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has nominated an all-white group of actors. Last week it was announced that no African-American talent was found worthy of an Oscar nomination by voting members of the academy.

This is outrageous. The demographics of the voting members of the academy are listed as 94 percent white members, the majority being older white males and 2 percent  percent of voting  members are African-American. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has an African-American president, Cheryl Boone Isaacs, who is doing the best she can.

But the reality is she’s the head of an organization that is going backwards as actor George Clooney stated this week. The Oscars should recognize the best in artistic achievement. Not just white people .

But when there is no diversity in voting members and 94 percent of older white males have a majority in votes on who receives an Oscar nomination this system is flawed. This year several African-American actors such as Will Smith, Idris Elba and Michael B. Jordan put on stellar performances in their respective movies.

Ryan Coogler the  African-American director of “ Creed “ was also overlooked even though Sylvester Stallone was nominated for a best supporting Oscar in “Creed.” The critically acclaimed movie and box office smash “Straight Outta Compton” was also largely ignored. The sole nomination the movie received was for best original screenplay and the two writers who received the nod are white.

Last year, Ava Duvernay, the young rising star director from Compton, who directed the critically acclaimed movie “Selma “was also ignored by Oscar voters. “Selma” was nominated for best picture by academy voters.

I asked myself last year how can they nominate “Selma” for best picture but overlook the director? The answer was easy. Ava is an African-American woman. Those old white men who dominate the voting are totally out of touch with reality and didn’t see value in her work.

The Hollywood critics who saw “Selma” realized she deserved a nomination and lambasted the academy voters for snubbing her. This writer took it a step further and called for a protest of the Oscars for their racist and sexist treatment of African-American talent.

The last protest of the Oscars was nearly 20 years and led by the Rev. Jesse Jackson.  Our community has to take a stand against racism wherever it rears its ugly head.  The National Action Network and its founder, the Rev. Al Sharpton, moved to the forefront in trying to hold Hollywood accountable.

Sharpton and NAN had meetings and discussions about the lack of diversity with the head of several Hollywood studios. While protest plans for the 2015 Oscars were being held by NAN, the day before the scheduled protest this writer received a phone call from Ava  Duvernay, who in full disclosure, is a longtime friend. Ava asked me to cancel our Oscar protest plans and instead seek a direct dialogue with Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs.

Ava wanted NAN to continue to be fervent in our mission to have African-American men and women have expansion and inclusion within the Academy and the motion picture industry, while demanding an examination of the sidelining and underrepresentation of artists of color and women artists. I respect Ava and trust her. I canceled the protest and had faith things would be different this year. I was never more wrong.

The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences made many promises last year to promote diversity in its film awards. It kept none of them. The proof is that despite a number of names, qualified black performers in major films, not one was nominated for a 2016 Academy Award.

Hollywood has essentially spit in the face of our community once again. So this year‘s protest of the Oscars spearheaded by NAN will be held Feb. 28.

But a one-day protest isn’t enough. The National Action Network of Los Angeles made the first call for a global boycott of the Oscars ceremony. I realized there’s only one thing that Hollywood understands and that’s dollars and ratings.

What I didn’t realize was calling for a boycott of the Oscars resonated among many frustrated African Americans  and quickly became national news. Sharpton issued a media statement and announced he would convene a series of meetings and conference calls immediately to launch a serious campaign for people to boycott the Oscars.

Sharpton also spoke with Spike Lee before his announcement and gave credit to NAN’s Los Angeles Chapter for being the first civil rights group to call for a boycott and protest of the Oscars. Sharpton  has already set up calls with leading activists and clergy to effectively show that Americans will turn off anything that does not represent the broad cultural and diverse contributions of American entertainment.

Needless to say, with Sharpton and NAN speaking out, we were joined a couple of days later by actress Jada Pinkett Smith, director Spike Lee, documentary filmmaker Michael Moore, actor/singer Tyrese and rappers Snoop Dogg and 50 Cent, who are just a few of the high profile African-Americans who have publicly endorsed our call for a boycott.

But it shouldn’t just be up to black actors supporting the boycott and saying something. That’s why NAN is formally calling on our white allies in the industry to come forward. We want the white liberals in the academy to speak out.

Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie have bi-racial children, Sylvester Stallone was nominated for an Oscar with the help of Ryan Coogler the  African-American director of “ Creed “ and its star Michael B. Jordan. It’s important and time for the white Hollywood to reject racism, and sexism in their industry.

If you want to help with our Oscars boycott and protest, our next meeting at NAN is Jan. 25 at 6 p.m. at our office at 2828 W. Jefferson Blvd. If you can’t make it, you can e-mail me for questions or concerns .

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