The New York Times posted an article citing black actor concerns about the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ failure to nominate any black actors for the coveted golden trophies of a naked dude. The article features a few observations of celebrated actor David Oyelowo most of which challenged the lack of diversity in the Academy’s membership. A number of black celebrities that have earned a few paychecks in front of the movie cameras have indicated a desire to boycott the party in March when the awards are handed out.
Neither the lack of nominations or the disgruntled outbursts are a surprise to me. The black elite tends to play the “we want our seat at the table” card when it comes to the Academy awards or other tumultuous moments in social justice. What is increasingly disheartening is that the black community insists on following a leadership that would rather play for scraps than go for the whole rack of beef.
My argument isn’t new. Filmmaker Tambay Obenson shared a similar sentiment in a post for NPR back in October 2007. Here is an excerpt from the post:
As a black filmmaker, I once empathized with the cries of black voices working within the studio system, criticizing it for its lack of diversity. However, the song has become stale, as people like myself, existing outside the system, struggle to understand the apparent lack of vision that some of our well-paid, powerful, influential voices display.
In recent weeks, I’ve read articles in which black Hollywood elite like Halle Berry, Spike Lee, and Tyler Perry have expressed their frustrations with some aspect of the industry, specific to their race. It seems to me that we’ve created this unfortunate reality for ourselves, this prison that we’ve psyched ourselves into, when we clearly have the power to create the kind of truth we yearn for. Instead we wait for a group of devout capitalists to some day realize our plight and intervene accordingly.
Black-owned studios have launched and failed. Remember Sapphire Entertainment, Inc.? Launched in 2006, the company seems to have ridden off into the sunset like so many “B” movies. Yes, with larger film and television production studios maybe black actors would have the additional exposure necessary for an Oscar win.
But should that be the black community’s focus? I think not. Rather, it should be on viewing and investing in the production and distribution of content provided by independent producers. Will Smith getting nominated for an Oscar doesn’t help the black community other than another check-off in the symbolism department. If black investors owned the production house that owned the movie that Will Smith is in and are having a hard time accessing capital, then that’s a concern.