Friday, January 22, 2016

Update: Motion Picture Academy Takes Historic Actions To Increase Its Members Diversity

Edited by Azizi Powell

This serves as an update to this January 21, 2016 pancocojams post "The Lack Of Racial Diversity In Hollywood & No Black Actors/Actresses Nominated For 2016 Academy Awards (selected comments)"

This news just came on the wire:
"Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences

Friday, January 22, 2016 - 08:00
Lifetime voting rights reframed; new governor seats added and committees restructured

Goal to double number of diverse members by 2020

In a unanimous vote Thursday night (1/21), the Board of Governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences approved a sweeping series of substantive changes designed to make the Academy’s membership, its governing bodies, and its voting members significantly more diverse. The Board’s goal is to commit to doubling the number of women and diverse members of the Academy by 2020.

“The Academy is going to lead and not wait for the industry to catch up,” said Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs. “These new measures regarding governance and voting will have an immediate impact and begin the process of significantly changing our membership composition.”

Beginning later this year, each new member’s voting status will last 10 years, and will be renewed if that new member has been active in motion pictures during that decade. In addition, members will receive lifetime voting rights after three ten-year terms; or if they have won or been nominated for an Academy Award. We will apply these same standards retroactively to current members. In other words, if a current member has not been active in the last 10 years they can still qualify by meeting the other criteria. Those who do not qualify for active status will be moved to emeritus status. Emeritus members do not pay dues but enjoy all the privileges of membership, except voting. This will not affect voting for this year’s Oscars.

At the same time, the Academy will supplement the traditional process in which current members sponsor new members by launching an ambitious, global campaign to identify and recruit qualified new members who represent greater diversity.

In order to immediately increase diversity on the Board of Governors, the Academy will establish three new governor seats that will be nominated by the President for three-year terms and confirmed by the Board.

The Academy will also take immediate action to increase diversity by adding new members who are not Governors to its executive and board committees where key decisions about membership and governance are made. This will allow new members an opportunity to become more active in Academy decision-making and help the organization identify and nurture future leaders.

Along with Boone Isaacs, the Board’s Membership and Administration Committee, chaired by Academy Governor Phil Robinson, led the efforts to enact these initiatives."

Here's some background regarding the Academy's membership prior to this historic change:
From Tuesday's Chile By Black Kos
Tuesday Jan 19, 2016 
A comment on the state of People of Color in the Arts Commentary by Chitown Kev
..."One specific issue as it relates to the Oscars is the lack of diversity among the voters of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. From Doctor RJ’s post last night:

There are more than 6,000 voters in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The rules for membership are a bit convoluted, but it basically consists of people working in the industry who are either sponsored by two Academy members, or by those who've been nominated or won Academy Awards. The demographics of the Academy are not public knowledge, and the organization refuses to release any data about its members. But 2012 and 2013 analyses by the Los Angeles Times found the demographics to be about what you would expect if one attended a tea party meeting.
•94 percent white
•76 percent male
•An average age of 63 years old
•Of the Academy’s different branches, the producers are 98 percent white, the writers are 98 percent white, and the actors are 88 percent white".
-end of quote-

This action by the Academy was largely prompted by criticism of the fact that for two consecutive years a number of quality films directed or produced by Black people and starring Black people have been overlooked for nominations. Also, for two consecutive years, in spite of high quality acting and awards at other venues, no Black stars have been nominated for major awards by the Academy. This criticism has led to calls for a boycott of the Academy Award event. Click for information and comments about that criticism and boycott. Here are quotes from that article:
..."Whether one supports the idea of a boycott, there is no doubt that change has to happen in Hollywood. As [Jada] Pinkett Smith suggested, black people and other non-white people will continue to “do us” and leave the Academy to “do them.” That doesn’t have to be called a “boycott” to be recognized as a show of solidarity and strength. Black audiences, in particular, have recognized that black movies don’t have to appeal to or appease white tastes to make money. Sooner or later, Hollywood will be made to understand how desperately it needs the stories and the creativity of brown folks. And, in an era when Black Lives Matter is the most important political issue of our time, this is about more than just movies...

[actor Will Smith speaking] “The nominations reflect the Academy. The Academy reflects the industry [Hollywood] and then the industry reflects America. There is a regressive slide towards separatism, towards racial and religious disharmony and that’s not the Hollywood that I want to leave behind. That’s not the industry, that’s not the America I want to leave behind,” he added.

Smith also acknowledged that him not getting a nomination for Concussion “probably” was part of what inspired his wife, Jada, to voice her criticism. But it wasn’t the sole motivator.

“There’s probably a part of that in there but, for [his wife] Jada [Pinkett who led the Academy Award criticism by posting a Facebook video], had I been nominated and no other people of color were, she would have made the video anyway,” Smith said. “We’d still be here having this conversation. This is so deeply not about me. This is about children that are going to sit down and they’re going to watch this show and they’re not going to see themselves represented.”

And it’s about an industry that seems all too eager to take those children’s money at the box office. Hollywood doesn’t have to do anything it doesn’t want to do, nor does the Academy. Actors are tired of being ignored and they’re making that clear. But what will happen when the people decide that they’re tired of being ignored, too?"...

Here are more comments about this subject:
..."The decision [to take these steps which will increase the diversity of the academy] was made at an emergency board meeting Thursday night. Academy honchos, including president Cheryl Boone Isaacs and CEO Dawn Hudson, opted not to wait for the regularly scheduled board meeting on Jan. 26. The changes were announced Friday morning.

Also on Thursday, sources said the Academy met with ABC officials and reps of [African American comedian/actor] Chris Rock, confirming that he will host the Feb. 28 ceremony. Jada Pinkett Smith, Spike Lee and Will Smith said they will not attend. Some other activists had urged Rock to withdraw; he never addressed those directly, but insiders said he believes he can do more good by remaining, since the Academy Awards reach a worldwide audience.

After worldwide media criticism over the Jan. 14 Oscar nominations, Academy officials knew they had to make some bold moves, and make them quickly. The image of the Oscars and the Academy were tarnished when the all-Caucasian lineup of 20 actors immediately led to bigger questions about the lack of diversity within the Academy — and ultimately within the industry."

From Actor Don Cheadle says Hollywood's diversity problem goes beyond the Oscars By SANDY COHEN
Published: 1/22/16 7:15 pm EST - Updated: 1/22/16 7:15 pm EST
"Actor Don Cheadle said he believes that Hollywood's diversity problem extends far beyond the Academy.

"(This) has to do with inclusion and access and the ability of people of color, women, minorities to get entry level positions where you can become someone who can greenlight a movie," he said in an interview with The Associated Press. "So until the product that's being spit out is created at a point where there is more diversity, I don't know that these changes will substantively affect much. "

Cheadle, nominated for best actor for "Hotel Rwanda" in 2005, called the Oscars "subjective" and "a popularity contest."

"You're going to vote for what you like or don't like. It's a completely subjective determination which is fine. It's a popularity contest. The only place to me, or one of the places where it comes into play that's tricky, is that these nominations actually translate into dollars and they translate into people's ability to parlay. If you're sort of kept out of that process unintentionally because of an institutionalized system that continues to see the same results happen then you are not able to benefit," he said.

He also questioned the black and white definition of diversity that some have jumped on in recent days.

"People think that the Oscars so White is like the new Black Lives Matter thing. It's like guys, you're conflating things that at that level don't have anything to do with each other," he said. "Diverse doesn't just mean more black people. Diverse means more representation from the entire diaspora of what the United States has to offer, not just one particular minority group. That's a part of it too that I think people are just focusing on that isn't really the issue."...

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