Rev. Al Sharpton leads #OscarsSoWhite protest in Hollywood
HOLLYWOOD (CNS / FOX 11) - The Rev. Al Sharpton led a protest in Hollywood Sunday, of the all-white slate of Oscar acting nominees and calling for more diversity in the entertainment industry.
Protestors shouted "No justice, no peace'' and "This is what democracy looks like'' in the demonstration that began outside Hollywood High School on Highland Avenue and Sunset Boulevard, two blocks south of the Dolby Theatre where the 88th Academy Awards were held later.
"The message is that we're putting them on notice that we cannot continue to be stalled in this industry dealing with a racially exclusive policy,'' Sharpton told reporters.
Sharpton's National Action Network planned to stage protests in cities across the nation, including Miami, Atlanta, Detroit, Cleveland, New York and Washington, D.C.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences came under fire this year when all of the acting nominees turned out to be white. It's the second year in a row there has been an all-white slate of nominees.
The Academy also snubbed the critically acclaimed film "Straight Outta Compton,'' which only received nods for its screenwriters, who are white.
Actress Jada Pinkett Smith -- whose husband Will Smith was overlooked for an Oscar for his work in "Concussion'' -- took to social media to announce her plans to boycott the Academy Awards. Director Spike Lee also lashed out at the Oscars for the all-white nominations.
In late January, Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs announced a series of changes to its voting and membership procedures with the aim of doubling its female and "diverse'' membership by 2020.
The Academy's Board of Governors voted to begin "an ambitious, global campaign to identify and recruit qualified new members who represent greater diversity.'' It also agreed to establish three new board seats, with those
representatives being nominated by the Academy president and approved by the board.
The academy also plans to add members who do not serve on the Board of Governors to its executive and board committees, "where key decisions about membership and governance are made.''
The academy also announced changes to its voting procedures, with each new member's voting status lasting 10 years, and renewed if the member has been active in motion pictures during that time. Members will receive lifetime voting rights after three 10-year terms, or if they have won or been nominated for an Oscar.
The new rules will be applied retroactively to current academy members. Members who do not qualify for active status will be transitioned to "emeritus status,'' under which they do not pay dues and have no voting privileges.
Despite those steps, many industry observers have noted that the diversity problem is not solely with the academy, but with the entertainment industry at large, with studio decision-makers being primarily white men.
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