By Terry Miller
Last Monday, Jan. 18, the nation honored the life and times of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. with parades, special ceremonies, and recreation of some of his most beloved and poignant speeches.
At one event, held in West Covina, Jayden Austin (11-years-old) placed 100 Monrovia Weekly newspapers on guests’ chairs prior to the speeches. The event coordinators requested copies of the paper which featured a page one story on Dr. King’s life.
However, the events honoring the birthday of one of the most important figures in American history were overshadowed by Hollywood’s snub of African-Americans’ contribution to the film industry.
The NAACP issued the following statement in conjunction with the announcement of the 88th Academy Awards which gave no mention to any black actors or those behind the camera. As a result many actors and directors like Spike Lee are planning on boycotting the Awards.
“The presentation of the annual Academy Awards has long served as the culminating event of the awards season. With the announcement of the nominees for the 88th Academy Awards, the contributions of people of color to the movie industry – both in front of and behind the cameras – once again have been severely overlooked. Of the 20 acting nominations, including Best Actor and Actress, and Best Supporting Actor and Actress, the Academy failed for the second year in a row to nominate a single actor of color.
“The artistic judgment of the Academy can’t be dictated. The diversity of the Academy, however, can and should be demanded. The Academy is revered for its role in judging the highest expression of human ideals in film. The Academy’s judgment, however, would be better respected were it based on a diversity of membership reflecting the diversity of moviegoers. Diversity in Hollywood in 2016 seems like dialogue from a black and white silent movie in 1916, words are spoken but no one seems to be able to hear and heed the need for diversity and credibility in the Academy.
“We commend the recent efforts of the Academy to increase diversity among its members, the record however is inadequate. Lack of recognition by the Academy of exemplary performances and work by people of color working in the industry led to the creation of the NAACP Image Awards almost 47 years ago. With the 2016 nomination results, our mission and efforts are as relevant today as they have been in the past.
“According to the 2013 Motion Picture Association of America’s Theatrical Market Statistics Report, people of color represented 51 percent of the frequent movie going audience, and 32 percent of that audience was Latino, while African Americans represented 12 percent. These numbers alone reflect the unbalanced relationship people of color have with Hollywood. It shows how we steadfastly support the movies, while the Academy Awards seldom recognizes the numerous contributions made by people of color towards making movies, appearing in movies and even viewing them.
“It is time for the Academy Awards to be as relevant to the new crop of actors and movie-going audiences as they are to the new movie viewing platforms. A first step is to revisit the Academy membership and how it can play catch up to reflect a 21st century world. Another is to question advertisers who support the Awards show. In 2014, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ revenue of $97.3 million dollars was due in large part to the domestic rights of its broadcast partner, ABC television, which has broadcast rights through 2020.
“The 2014 Oscars broadcast boasted the highest telecast in 10 years with 43 million viewers. This was the same year that had the most diverse slate of movies by filmmakers of color as well as actors, which assuredly attributed to its ratings increase. Diversity is not just good business, it’s the only business and the 2014 ratings numbers show that. It’s time the Academy recognizes the value and the voice of people of color and until they do, we should switch the channel until that old guard can reflect and respect what people of color bring to the table.”