Cheryl Boone Isaacs, the President of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, released a statement on Tuesday, January 19, a day after Jada Pinkett Smith and Spike Lee announced their decision to boycott the 2016 Oscars due to the lack of diversity on this year’s nominees list.
“I’d like to acknowledge the wonderful work of this year’s nominees,” Isaacs shared in her statement to Us Weekly. “While we celebrate their extraordinary achievements, I am both heartbroken and frustrated about the lack of inclusion. This is a difficult but important conversation, and it’s time for big changes. The Academy is taking dramatic steps to alter the makeup of our membership. In the coming days and weeks we will conduct a review of our membership recruitment in order to bring about much-needed diversity in our 2016 class and beyond.”
The brewing controversy began last Thursday, January 14, after the nominations were announced. For the second consecutive year, all nominees in the major acting categories were white.
Isaacs — who previously expressed her frustration about the 2016 list of nods — said the Academy has attempted to make strides in recent years. “As many of you know, we have implemented changes to diversify our membership in the last four years. But the change is not coming as fast as we would like. We need to do more, and better and more quickly,” she continued. “This isn’t unprecedented for the Academy. 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. We recognize the very real concerns of our community, and I so appreciate all of you who have reached out to me in our effort to move forward together.”
Pinkett Smith, 44, announced in a Facebook video on Monday that she will neither attend nor watch the show. “The Academy has the right to acknowledge whoever they choose. To invite whoever they choose. And now I think that it’s our responsibility now to make the change,” she noted. “Begging for acknowledgment or even asking diminishes dignity and diminishes power. And we are a dignified people, and we are powerful. So let the Academy do them in all grace and love. And let’s do us differently.”
Pinkett Smith’s husband, Will Smith, was left off this year’s list of nods, though he was nominated for a best actor Golden Globe for his role in Concussion. Meanwhile, a previous Oscar recipient, director Spike Lee, has also joined Pinkett Smith in her movement to boycott this year’s show. “Mean No Disrespect To My Friends, Host Chris Rock and Producer Reggie Hudlin, President Isaacs And The Academy,” the Do The Right Thing director, 58, shared on Instagram. “But, How Is It Possible For The 2nd Consecutive Year All 20 Contenders Under The Actor Category Are White?”
Chris Rock, who’s joked that this year’s ceremony is the “white BET Awards,” will serve as host of the 2016 Oscars, airing live on Sunday, February 28, at 7 p.m. EST on ABC.
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