ABC will air the 88th Academy Awards on Sunday, Feb. 28, 2016, and its ceremony will begin broadcasting at 5:30 p.m. PST. Comedian Chris Rock will be hosting tonight, but this year, Hollywood will be hosting a different type of gathering in honor of the event. The Academy Awards and its spotlights will be on a racial protest blocks away from the prestigious Dolby Theatre in Hollywood.
Reverand and civil rights activist, Al Sharpton, is from Brooklyn, N.Y., but his intentions of traveling to Los Angeles, Calif. could have press bypass the Academy Awards. He and numerous civil rights organizations will gather at the Hollywood High School on Sunset Boulevard and Highland Ave. The high school is less than one mile away from the red carpets, which will be bombarded by media in front of the Dolby Theatre. The protest will take place during the duration of the Academy Awards.
The protest will be held due to the lack of miscegenation in the entertainment industry, but specifically the lack of nonwhite nominees in this year’s Oscars. This issue has caused numerous demonstrations worldwide, and these rallies introduced the national hashtag: #OscarsSoWhite. Last year, the awards nominee list lacked diversity as the majority of them were all Caucasian. This will be the second year in a row that there has been a diversity issue concerning the Academy Awards.
Prior to the protest, Rev. Sharpton hosted a few gatherings. He visited the First AME Church of Los Angeles to deliver a sermon. The church is the oldest African-American church in Los Angeles. His sermon emphasized the issue on diversity in entertainment.
Following the service, Rev. Sharpton held a news conference next to the late Hattie McDaniel’s former home. McDaniel’s played as Mammy in Gone with the Wind (1939) and was awarded an Oscar. She was the first African-American actress to win an Academy Award 75 years ago.
Rev. Sharpton is not the only prominent name that has advocated the boycott of the Academy Awards. According to NBC Southern California, Jada Pinkett Smith, who is married to actor Will Smith and is an actress herself, stated on social media that she would boycott the Academy Awards. Her husband was neglected by the awards for his role in the 2015 drama Concussion. Director Spike Lee also shared his negative opinions about this year’s nominees lacking diversity. With other Hollywood icons noticing the nationwide boycott, the Academy Awards spotlight will be pointed at the #OscarsSoWhite racial protest.
Rev. Sharpton led a memorial in June 2009 to honor the late Michael Jackson. The memorial was held at the Apollo Theater in New York City, N.Y. Recently, Rev. Sharpton appeared and led rallies in relation to Florida’s Trayvon Martin case in 2012. Rev. Sharpton was known for his peaceful approach during the climax of this worldwide controversy to promote justice to the young, unarmed teen who was shot to death.
The Academy Awards president, Cheryl Boone, has been aware of the severity of nationwide concerns regarding diversity. While the nominees are out of her control, she did make an effort to provide changes. In January, Boone constructed changes in the voting membership process. Currently, there are 6,261 voting members. Approximately 91 percent of those voters being white and 76 percent being male. The goal was to double the women and ethnic diversity of the Academy’s Board of Governors by 2020.
Rock, who is African American, will have all eyes on him in the midst of the #OscarsSoWhite controversy. The Academy Awards spotlight will be on the racial protest, but chances are, many viewers will closely listen for any references made by the other presenters or the winners.
Opinion by Tricia Manalansan
Los Angeles Times: Academy Awards: #OscarsSoWhite protests planned nationally; Al Sharpton in L.A.
NBC Southern California: Rev. Al Sharpton to Hold #OscarsSoWhite Protest Ahead of Academy Awards
Washington Post: Oscars 2016: Complete guide to the 88th Academy Awards; full list of nominees
Image Courtesy of David Torcivia’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License