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Academy Award president promises urgent steps to diversify membership

2016-01-19 10:06

New York — Amid calls for a boycott of the Academy Awards over its all-white acting nominees and Spike Lee and Jada Pinkett Smith both announcing they would sit out this year's ceremony, the academy's president said it was time for major changes — and soon.

Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences President Cheryl Boone Isaacs issued a statement promising more diversity, and quickly, after both Lee and Pinkett spoke out on Monday.

Isaacs has made a point of presenting a more inclusive show this year. The 28 February broadcast will be hosted by Chris Rock and produced by Django Unchained producer Reginald Hudlin and David Hill. 

On Saturday, Rock, unveiling a new promotion for the broadcast, called the ceremony "The White BET Awards."

When Oscar nominations were announced Thursday, Isaacs acknowledged she was "disappointed" that all 20 acting nominees were again white and promised to "continue the conversation" on diversity. Isaacs has worked to diversify membership for the academy, which a 2012 study by the Los Angeles Times found is overwhelming white and male.

But on Monday, Isaacs was more explicit and promised an examination of the academy and a more intense drive to diversify.

"I’d like to acknowledge the wonderful work of this year’s nominees. 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", she said in a statement. 

She continued, "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. 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 recognise 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," says Isaacs.

READ NEXT: Jada Pinkett Smith and Spike Lee won't attend #OscarsSoWhite



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