David Oyelowo didn't hold back his disgust with the Academy Awards and its Oscar nominations in regard to the lack of diversity. He was overlooked for his role as Martin Luther King Jr in Selma, and has gone on record as saying, "The Academy has a problem," at the King Legacy Awards. He added, "It's a problem that needs to be solved."
Oyelowo isn't the first star to point out the issue of a lack of diversity at the Academy Awards. Don Cheadle has also made mention of it and Spike Lee has gone so far as to say that he will boycott the 2016 Academy Awards because of its "all-white ballot."
In his speech at the King Legacy Awards, Oyelowo mentioned a discussion he had with Boone Isaacs. Oyelowo said that, " A year ago, I did a film called Selma, and after the Academy Awards, Cheryl invited me to her office to talk about what went wrong then. We had a deep and meaningful [conversation]. For 20 opportunities to celebrate actors of color, actresses of color, to be missed last year is one thing; for that to happen again this year is unforgivable."
He went on to ask the audience to pray for Boon Isaacs, saying that, "The reason why the Oscars are so important is because it is the zenith, it is the epitome, it is the height of celebration of artistic endeavor within the filmmaking community. We grow up aspiring, dreaming, longing to be accepted into that august establishment because it is the height of excellence. I would like to walk away and say it doesn't matter, but it does, because that acknowledgement changes the trajectory of your life, your career, and the culture of the world we live in."
He added, "This institution doesn't reflect its president and it doesn't reflect this room. I am an Academy member and it doesn't reflect me, and it doesn't reflect this nation."
Oyelowo pointed out that there were two films this week that were on top at the box office that were led by African-American performers: "We have a situation whereby currently the biggest movie in the world and of all time [Star Wars: The Force Awakens] is led by a black man. That film was knocked off the top spot this weekend by a film led by two black men, Ride Along 2. The biggest TV show on the planet is led by black people, Empire."
He challenged the Academy to consider how quickly things happened in the 1960s with the Civil Rights Movement and the Voting Rights Act, pointing out that it was, "a matter of months" for that bill to become a law. He suggested that if bureaucrats can make a controversial change that quickly in the 20th century, that Hollywood ought to be able to at least do the same in the 21st century.
On Thursday evening, Academy President Cheryl Boon Isaacs released a statement in which she said that she was, "both heartbroken and frustrated about the lack of inclusion," and that, "this is a difficult but important conversation, and it's time for big changes."
She spoke of a review of the membership recruitment process, "in order to bring about much-needed diversity in our 2016 class and beyond. 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."
This is the second year in a row in which African-American performers have not been nominated in any of the acting categories.