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Academy President: Diversity a Moral and Economic Imperative in Hollywood

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Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences President Cheryl Boone Isaacs responded Friday to the controversy surrounding the Oscars’ failure to nominate any minorities in all four of its acting categories.

Shortly after the Academy Award nominations were announced Thursday, the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite began trending on Twitter, reflecting the fact that all 20 of the acting nominees for this year’s awards are white.

In the wake of racism allegations levied against the Academy by the Rev. Al Sharpton and others, Boone Isaacs told the Associated Press that the organization “continues to make strides toward becoming a more diverse and inclusive organization.”

“In the last two years, we’ve made greater strides than we ever have in the past toward becoming a more diverse and inclusive organization through admitting new members and more inclusive classes of members,” Boone Isaacs told the AP. “And, personally, I would love to see and look forward to see a greater cultural diversity among all our nominees in all of our categories.”

Boone Isaacs, who is black, refused to comment on whether or not the Academy was “embarrassed” by its nominations, saying that all of the nominees were deserving of recognition.

“What is important not to lose sight of is that ‘Selma,’ which is a fantastic motion picture, was nominated for best picture this year, and the best picture category is voted on by the entire membership of around 7,000 people,” Boone Isaacs said. “It’s nominated for the Oscar for best picture. It’s an award that showcases the talent of everyone involved in the production of the movie ‘Selma.'”

As of 2012, the Academy was 94 percent white and 77 percent male with a median age of 62, according to a study conducted by the Los Angeles Times. Blacks and Latinos make up a combined 4 percent of Oscar voters.

“We absolutely recognize that we need to do a better job,” longtime Academy governor Phil Alden Robinson told the Times in 2012. “We start off with one hand tied behind our back… If the industry as a whole is not doing a great job in opening up its ranks, it’s very hard for us to diversify our membership.”

Boone Isaacs, who worked as a public relations executive at the Academy in 2012, agreed with the sentiment, telling the AP that as the organization works to diversify, she hopes the film industry as a whole will follow suit, or even take the lead.

“It matters that we pay attention to, again, the diversity of voice and opinion and experience, and that it doesn’t slide, it doesn’t slide anywhere except for forward,” she said. “And maybe this year is more just about let’s kick it in even more.”

Selma, a film about a three-month period in the life of Martin Luther King, Jr., was nominated for Best Picture and Best Original Song. Critics have slammed what they perceive to be “snubs” for first-time director Ava DuVernay and for the actor playing King, David Oyelowo.


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