Jada Pinkett Smith and director Spike Lee are taking a stand against the 2016 Oscars, neither attending nor watching the event because of a lack of diversity among nominees. With no non-white actors nominated in major categories at this year's Academy Awards, the two stars are calling for a boycott.
For the second consecutive year, no black actors were shortlisted for the main individual acting awards, with Idris Elba overlooked for Beast of No Nation, and Jada's husband Will Smith passed over for Concussion. Creed star Michal B. Jordan also failed to receive a nomination, as did many first-time actors in Straight Outta Compton.
Jada began by posting a three-part comment on Twitter explaining her decision. "At the Oscars… people of colour are always welcome to give out awards … even entertain," she wrote. "But we are rarely recognized for our artistic accomplishments. Should people of colour refrain from participating all together? People can only treat us in the way which we allow. With much respect in the midst of dark disappointment."
The actress then released a video on Monday – Martin Luther King Day – in which she expanded on her views. "I ask the question have we now come to a new time and place, where we recognize that we can no longer beg for love, acknowledgement or respect of any group," she said. "That maybe it is time that we recognize we love, respect and acknowledge ourselves in the way we are asking others to do …
"Here is what I believe, the Academy has the right to acknowledge whomever they choose, to invite whomever they choose and now, I think that it is our responsibility now to make the change …."
"Here is what I do know," she concluded, "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 that it. So let's let the Academy do the awards with all grace and love, and let's do us differently."
Spike Lee, who received an Honorary Academy Award in November for his contribution to filmmaking, also took to social media on Monday to share his views.
"How is it possible for the second consecutive year all 20 contenders under the actor category are white,” he wrote. "And let’s not even get into the other branches. Forty white actors in two years and no flava at all. We can't act?!"
This year’s Academy Awards is being hosted by black comedian Chris Rock, who has poked fun at the controversy. Sharing a new promotional video for the Oscars on Twitter, he captioned it "The White BET (Black Entertainment Television) Awards."
President of the Academy, Cheryl Boone Isaacs, who is herself black and a campaigner for diversity in the film industry, admitted last week that she was "disappointed" by the fact that there were no black performers nominated for best actor, best actress, best supporting actor or best supporting actress.
"I'd like to acknowledge the wonderful work of this year’s nominees," she said in a statement. "While we celebrate their extraordinary achievements, I am both heartbroken and frustrated about the lack of inclusion. This is a difficult but important conversation, and it’s time for big changes.
"As many of you know, we have implemented changes to diversify our membership in the last four years. But the change is not coming as fast as we would like. We need to do more, and better and more quickly."