We Can No Longer Beg
One of the most powerful responses to this year’s #OscarsSoWhite movement comes from actress Jada Pinkett Smith, who posted this video to Facebook on January 18, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.
The actress, whose husband was recently snubbed for his role in Concussion, starts off with a challenge:
“Is it time that people of color recognize how much power, influence that we have amassed? That we no longer need to ask to be invited anywhere? I ask the question: have we now come to a new time and place where we recognize that we can no longer beg for the love, acknowledgement, or respect of any group? That maybe it’s time that we recognize that if we love and respect and acknowledge ourselves in the way in which we are asking others to do, that that is the place of true power?”
Her provocative questions do not stop there. Pinkett Smith’s eloquent message encourages the viewer to take a stand against waiting for the Academy and Hollywood to give the proper respect to minority actors as well as crews and creative teams of color. She beautifully delivers a point that “begging for acknowledgment–or even asking–diminishes dignity and diminishes power, and we are a dignified people. And we are powerful, and let’s not forget it.”
She then apologizes to Chris Rock, who is set to host the Oscars this year, saying that she will not be attending or watching. And yet despite Jada’s plea, not all actors of color are getting behind her impassioned statement.
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Actress Janet Hubert may have played Aunt Viv on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air opposite Will Smith, but she is no stranger to controversy with Smith and his wife.
The actress posted a controversial video today calling out Jada Pinkett Smith for encouraging black actors to “jeopardize their careers” by insulting the Academy, implying that the actress is a hypocrite for making millions from Hollywood and then calling to boycott the Oscars simply for feeling snubbed.
Hubert also implied that black actors worrying about the Oscar snub is insignificant compared to other current events, saying, “Girlfriend, there’s a lot of s— going on in the world that you all don’t seem to recognize. People are dying. Our boys are being shot left and right. People are hungry. People are starving. People are trying to pay bills And you’re talking about some motherf—ing actors and Oscars. It just ain’t that deep.”
While heated, Hubert’s argument does bring up the dangerous politics of the film industry, showing that the idea to boycott the Oscars or demand too much shift in power can only be safely done by those that Hollywood most favors.
But another black woman in Hollywood who felt that the lack of diversity in the Oscar nominations is worth concern was the Academy President herself.
The Academy’s Response
On January 19, Cheryl Boone Isaacs, the President of the Academy, promptly released the above statement, expressing that she remains “both heartbroken and frustrated about the lack of inclusion.”
Boone Isaacs continues, “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.”
Perhaps the biggest change the Academy has implemented thus far is the A2020, a five-year diversification plan described by The Hollywood Reporter as a means “to study practices at the Academy with the aim of improving the diversity of its own staff and governance while also bringing new voices into the organization. It is also intended to encourage and to push the industry to examine its hiring practices and to begin to make changes.”
As this year’s nominees go to show, however, the A2020 is off to a slow start.