There will be more than nominees outside the Oscars on Sunday as demands for greater diversity within the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences take to the Hollywood streets. The Los Angeles chapter of Al Sharpton’s National Action Network is planning to protest the 87th Academy Awards with what they hope will be a big turnout in the heart of Hollywood over the hotly debated issue.
This latest call for greater diversity within the Academy comes just days after Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-San Fernando Valley) publicly requested a meeting with AMPAS chief Cheryl Boone Isaacs on the matter and then mulled unlikely Congressional hearings on the matter.
“We want to catch the celebrities as they are walking on the red carpet,” LA NAA Political Director Najee Ali told me today about the protest, which is set to start at 2 PM PT. “We will be right outside the Oscar ceremony, as close as the police will allow us.” How close is unclear: With the Oscars at the Dolby Theatre near Hollywood & Highland, the LAPD said that Hollywood Boulevard will be closed from La Brea to the west and to Highland to the east. The perimeter could go one more block east to McCadden, law enforcement sources tell me. One thing is for sure: NAA founder and MSNBC host Sharpton will not be attending the planned protest – except in spirit. “He has given us his blessing,” Ali says.
Sharpton was in the news recently for calling out then-Sony Pictures boss Amy Pascal for her private emails with producer Scott Rudin that were made public during the Sony hack attack. The emails included racially insensitive remarks about what black movies President Barack Obama might like. Pascal and Rudin apologized for the exchange, and Sharpton and Pascal met to discuss them. A task force to look at diversity in Hollywood was formed, though the head of it resigned after Pascal’s exit.
As for Sunday’s goals, “It is pretty obvious that the Academy needs more diversity in its voting process,” Ali said, noting the LA chapter will formally announce the planned protest in a press conference today at noon PT. “Very simple facts are that 94% of Academy voters are white,” Ali added, noting concerns raised about the apparent lack of diversity among this year’s nominations and perceived snubs of some filmmakers and actors when this year’s nominees were named on January 15.
“While our coalition of civil rights leaders questioned the obvious omissions of director Ava DuVernay and actor David Oyelowo from the critically acclaimed civil rights drama Selma, our protest and concerns isn’t just about them,” Ali in an additional statement today. “The issue of the lack of racial diversity is the larger issue that Hollywood must face and confront head on. That’s why our protest of this year’s Oscar’s ceremony is designed to be a wake-up call for the entire industry.”
“The National Action Network is calling for the President of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Cheryl Boone Isaacs, to accelerate the Academy’s push to be more inclusive. With all of this year’s acting contenders being white and no women in the directing or writing categories. It’s obvious that the Academy has a diversity problem they are going to have to fix,” added the NAA’s Rev. K.W.Tulloss.
The Oscars are set to start at 5 PM PT with a live broadcast on ABC.