Despite the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences’ assurance to lead a conversation about diversity among its ranks, the Rev. Al Sharpton announced Thursday plans for a rally before Sunday’s Oscars ceremony to protest the event and encourage viewers not to tune in to the Academy Awards telecast on ABC.
For the second year in a row, the Academy Award nominations failed to include any minority actors, reigniting a conversation over diversity and opportunity in Hollywood. Sharpton criticized the Academy afterward in a statement, saying, “Hollywood is like the Rocky Mountains, the higher up you get, the whiter it gets, and this year’s Academy Awards will be yet another Rocky Mountain Oscars… Yet again, deserving black actors and directors were ignored by the academy — which reinforces the fact that there are few if any blacks with real power in Hollywood.”
The lack of diversity at the Oscars also led to criticism from Will Smith, Jada Pinkett Smith, and Spike Lee, all of whom said they would not support the show. The attention and outrage led to an overhaul of the Academy’s membership process with new initiatives to double the number of women and minority members by 2020. “The Academy is going to lead and not wait for the industry to catch up,” Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs said in a statement. “These new measures regarding governance and voting will have an immediate impact and begin the process of significantly changing our membership composition.”
Sharpton’s demonstration will be held near the Dolby Theatre, the site of the Oscars ceremony. According to the AP, other rallies are also planned in New York, Virginia, Ohio, Georgia, and Michigan. The Academy did not immediately respond to a request for comment.