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Al Sharpton Leads Academy Awards Protest: ‘This Will Be the Last Night of an All-White Oscars’

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LOS ANGELES — The Rev. Al Sharpton led a rally Sunday afternoon around the corner from Hollywood’s Dolby Theater to protest the lack of diversity among this year’s Academy Award nominees.

Joined by members of his National Action Network (NAN) advocacy group bearing signs reading “Shame on you” and  “Boycott #OscarsSoWhite,” Sharpton spoke briefly to several dozen demonstrators, telling the entertainment industry it is “out of time” to address its “systemic” diversity problem.

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“This year, you had Straight Outta Compton. This year, you had Beasts of No Nation. This year, you had the Will Smith movie, Concussion. None of them are even considered for a top award,” Sharpton said. “We’re not saying who must win, but if you’ve been locked out of the process, then you are dealing with a systemic problem of exclusion.”

“We are not going to allow the Oscars to continue,” he added. “This will be the last night of an all-white Oscars. We intend to go to advertisers, we intend to mobilize all over the country. This is an insult to Americans of all races.”

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The #OscarsSoWhite controversy erupted in January after the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences nominated exclusively white actors in top categories for a second consecutive year. Some stars, including Will and Jada Pinkett Smith and filmmaker Spike Lee, vowed to boycott the awards ceremony. In a statement last month, Sharpton urged at-home viewers to “tune out” of the awards show in protest.

Sharpton’s National Action Network was reportedly staging demonstrations in Miami, Detroit, Cleveland, New York, and Washington D.C. on Sunday just hours before the Oscars were set to begin.

Project Islamic Hope director Najee Ali introduced Sharpton ahead of the protest. Ali had led a protest earlier this month outside the annual Academy nominee luncheon at the Beverly Hilton hotel.

“I think it’s very important that we take a collective stand against racism,” Ali told demonstrators. “I think it’s very important that we come together collectively to say, ‘We want diversity!'”

Speaking with reporters during the protest, Sharpton said that Hollywood’s traditionally progressive community failed in selecting its Oscars nominations this year. He called for an “affirmative program to put blacks and Latinos in decision-making positions.”

“They claim to be liberal in Hollywood,” he said. “You couldn’t tell from their selections the past two years.”

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has worked quickly to address the backlash. The organization approved a dramatic overhaul to its voting rules and organizational structure last month in an effort to double the number of women and minority voting members by 2020.

AMPAS hopes diversifying its voting body will lead to an increase in diversity among Oscar nominees, though many longtime Academy members have characterized the move as an effort to strip voting privileges from older, white members in favor of younger, more politically correct members.

The 88th Academy Awards air Sunday night at 8:30 p.m. ET/5:30 PT on ABC.


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