The 89th Oscars ceremony was the most diverse in history. At the same time fewer people than in almost a decade watched the telecast.
The Oscars attained the high water mark of diversity because of the two year push by civil rights organizations and leaders, namely Project Islamic Hope, the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable, and the National Action Network to make diversity the watchword in the Academy’s awards. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences heard the call and responded by increasing minority and women membership in the Academy and encouraging diversity this year.
That was a good first step, but only a first step. We now call on the Academy to radically increase the number of Blacks, Hispanics and Asian voting members of the Academy and insure that they are represented at all levels of decision making in the Academy. We also call on the Academy to push the studios and craft unions to open the hiring door for Blacks, Hispanics and Asians in the unions to radically increase the numbers of people of color in off camera craft positions. This is where the bulk of the film business occurs.
As for the viewership continuing plunge, it’s no accident that the ratings for the Oscar’s Telecast continues to plunge. In 2015 and 2016 we called for an Oscar’s Telecast Tune Out and millions of people responded by boycotting viewing of the Telecast in protest of its virtual lily white ignoring of Blacks and people of color artists from award consideration.
Despite this year’s increased diversity, viewers are still tuning out. The one sure way to reverse that downward spiral is to make the Academy and the movie industry truly reflect the face of a fast growing changing and diverse America. People of color and women want to see films and an industry that reflect their lives and experiences. They want to be assured that the doors will be open to them at every level of employment in the industry.
We call again on Hollywood, the Academy and the Movie Industry to become an industry that makes diversity its permanent watchword. We as civil rights leaders and organizations will not let up or rest and will keep the pressure on the industry to make that happen. Failure to heed our call guarantees that the Oscars will become a relic that Americans shun.
President, Project Islamic Hope
Earl Ofari Hutchinson
President, Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable
Pastor KW Tulloss
President National Action Network-L.A.