Following days of backlash after the Academy unveiled an all-white roster of acting nominees for the 2016 Oscars last Thursday, Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs released a statement Monday night addressing the controversy, and detailing an effort to help fix the issue.
“I’d like to acknowledge the wonderful work of this year’s nominees,” she wrote. “While we celebrate their extraordinary achievements, I am both heartbroken and frustrated about the lack of inclusion. This is a difficult but important conversation, and it’s time for big changes. The Academy is taking dramatic steps to alter the makeup of our membership. In the coming days and weeks we will conduct a review of our membership recruitment in order to bring about much-needed diversity in our 2016 class and beyond.”
“As many of you know, we have implemented changes to diversify our membership in the last four years,” she went on. “But the change is not coming as fast as we would like. We need to do more, and better and more quickly. This isn’t unprecedented for the Academy. In the ‘60s and ‘70s it was about recruiting younger members to stay vital and relevant. In 2016, the mandate is inclusion in all of its facets: gender, race, ethnicity and sexual orientation. We recognize the very real concerns of our community, and I so appreciate all of you who have reached out to me in our effort to move forward together.”
The statement comes the same day that Spike Lee called for a boycott of the Oscars because of the lack of inclusion, after Jada Pinkett Smith (whose husband Will Smith was shut out for his performance in “Concussion”) also publicly called for action.
This is the second year in a row that the Academy has failed to nominate an actor of color for the Oscars. Many expected Smith’s performance in “Concussion,” Michael B. Jordan and Tessa Thompson’s roles in “Creed,” Idris Elba in “Beasts of No Nation” and/or any of the actors from “Straight Out of Compton” to be singled out for nods, but instead, all-white actresses and actors were nominated.
“We Cannot Support It And Mean No Disrespect To My Friends, Host Chris Rock and Producer Reggie Hudlin, President Isaacs And The Academy. But, How Is It Possible For The 2nd Consecutive Year All 20 Contenders Under The Actor Category Are White?,” “Chi-Raq” director Lee wrote on his Instagram page Monday morning.
Despite the controversy, Academy members remained mum up until Isaacs’ statement. Even host Chris Rock commented on the lack of diversity, calling the Oscars “the White BET Awards” on Twitter.
The 88th Academy Awards will take place on Feb. 28 and air live on ABC.