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Selma's David Oyelowo Slams Academy For Lack of Diversity

Selma's David Oyelowo Slams Academy For Lack of Diversity

Selma actor David Oyelowo is speaking out against The Academy for the lack of diversity in all twenty acting nominations this year.

“The Academy has a problem,” the 39-year-old British actor said while presenting Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs with an award named after civil rights icon Rosa Parks at the King Legacy Awards on Monday (January 18). “It’s a problem that needs to be solved.”

“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,” David said. “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.”

“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,” David continued. “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.”

Click inside to read the rest of David Oyelowo’s powerful speech…

“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.”

“There was a photograph up here earlier, and it’s a photograph of Lyndon Johnson giving a pen that was used to sign the Voting Rights Act to Dr. King,” he said. “The year before that photograph was taken, the Civil Rights Act was passed. It was started as an idea by JFK; LBJ used the sentiment at the loss of JFK’s life to bring about the Civil Rights Act being passed. When Dr. King said we need the Voting Rights Act to be passed, LBJ said it’s too soon, it can’t be done. People were losing their lives. People weren’t allowed to vote. Dr. King said [we cannot] wait. What was done was done not in years but months. The march from Selma to Montgomery, those marches began in January of 1965, and by March of ’65 the world was aware what was going on in Selma. By August of that year, the Voting Rights Act was passed.”

“The Academy is an institution in which they all say radical and timely change cannot happen quickly,” he said. “It better happen quickly. The law of this country can change in a matter of months. It better come on. The Oscars is on February 28. Cheryl needs us to pray that by that date, change is going to come. We need to pray for Cheryl, we need to support Cheryl, we need to love Cheryl. We cannot afford to get bitter, we cannot afford to get negative. But we must make our voice heard.”

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Photos: Getty
Posted to: David Oyelowo

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  • Benny Ehud

    I’m black. I want ppl to know that the EVERYDAY black person doesn’t give a sh** about this. F**k the Oscars! That’s even before they had no non-whites nominated.
    These black actors are just complaining b/c they aren’t getting recognized.
    I don’t need someone from the Oscars telling me who can act, who can direct, or what movie is the best. F**K the Oscars.

  • Shivani Yadav

    I wouldn’t care if all Oscar nominees were Eskimos as long as they received the vote based on talent. I love diversity in ethnicity, but to force it is discriminatory. Unless you have a legit claim of discrimination, you should focus on doing great work and maybe you’ll get nominated. Equality for all!

  • kellyf

    Overprivileged millionares not getting enough awards. A great injustice indeed.

  • smooshy

    all these spoiled pampered millionaire actors need to get a grip. boo hoo I didn’t get nominated. I’m sick of this nonsense.

  • Curt Noydb

    There is only one Best Picture/Best Actor/Best Actress category. Perhaps if we made categories like “Best White Actor/Best Black Actor/Best Pan Asian Actor/Best Gay Actress/ Best Transgender in a Straight Role, etc., etc. that would satisfy the wounded feelings?
    A wise man and civil rights trailblazer noted something very important. “Political Correctness does not promote diversity. It only organizes hatred.” Pick you battles better. With millions of Americans ( mostly minorities) suffering in failed, abandoned cities why are you only now voicing your “blackness”?

  • Curt Noydb

    I really don’t think anyone outside of the Hollywood machine gives a sh*t about the Oscars. Ever no anyone that plans an “Oscar Party” at home?

  • Benny Ehud

    It’s bullsh** LOL I have never watched a movie b/c of the Oscars. NEVER!! The only movie that came close was Slumdog Millionaire. I finally watched that after I kept hearing how good it was. It wasn’t solely about the Oscars.

  • Visitor

    So eloquent.

  • Visitor

    Do you truly believe the BEST people win the Oscar every year, and that it’s always about talent?

  • Cruizin1960

    Want to know why Selma was overlooked? Oprah’s participation in the project and the fact that 12 Years a Slave was so much better.

  • Marie Bunny Shepard

    Here here !

  • Marie Bunny Shepard

    No. Sometimes it’s mostly political. And it’s terrible. (I love JLaw, but the Oscar for this movie everybody forgot about ? C’mon) And most of the time it’s about rewarding such and such money-makers behind a movie (e.i. The Studios and so on)

  • Do Tell

    I know a lot of everyday people don’t care about the Oscars, but the actors sure do. It is the highest honor. Why work so hard at something you love, when at the end of the day the odds are already stacked against you? I think the Academy needs more diversity after I heard it consists of something like 94 percent old, white men. They need more women, younger people and minorities to make it more fair.

    If no one talks about it, nothing will get done.

    Benicio Del Toro should have gotten a nomination this year. I think the Academy thinks that because he already received one, that’s all he gets. It probably took him this long to get another really great role. Yet people like Leo, Tom Hanks & Meryl Streep (no hate, as I love them and they are fab) get the greatest opportunities and are nominated again and again.

  • Do Tell

    Benicio Del Toro was a better actor than the man in “Bridge of Spies.” Benicio should have at least been nominated.

    I would probably skip the Oscars this year, but I want to see Leonardo Dicaprio finally get his. I think those old, stodgy men kept it from him for some reason (maybe personal). Even so, Dicaprio has been blessed with a great career with some really great roles.

  • Do Tell

    Right. The Shawshank Redemption is one of the most beloved films, yet it was basically passed over.

  • Do Tell

    They’re not ALL wealthy actors. Many are very talented individuals who went to acting school, honed their craft, yet they are “struggling” and taking bit parts. It’s not about the Smiths or even black people. It’s also about the “other” minority groups who deserve a fair chance.

  • Do Tell

    Like stated above, they are not ALL rich actors. Most struggle and take whatever role they can get because they love acting. It’s not just about black people or Will Smith.

  • Do Tell

    The minorities who act care. It’s important to them because it’s their career and something they love doing. You have to put yourself in their shoes.

    If the minority actors were to all give up and leave acting and Hollywood altogether, how would you feel? Just like how I’m not stuck on one type of music, I want to see a fair representation of the different people I see in real life on the big screen and in television.

  • smooshy

    all the ones whining are rich.

  • Benny Ehud

    You are a sad soul if you need 60+ yr old white men to validate you when you are already making millions of dollars. That’s pathetic.

    Working as actor and making millions of dollars has nothing to do with getting an Oscar.

  • kellyf

    A larger conversation about opportunities for minority actors is probably a very fair conversation to have. But unfortunately, that’s not what these celebrities have made the debate about. They have chosen to make it about the Oscars, and by far, actors who would be considered for Oscars are well-established and well-paid actors. They could have chosen to make it about struggling minority actors, but instead they’ve made it about themselves and fellow millionaire actors not getting enough awards.

  • Shivani Yadav

    No, not EVERYTIME but yeah, mostly! :)

  • Shivani Yadav

    Well, I get your point and everything… I completely understand and I’m guessing you understood mine too. Thank you for not replying in a negative way (because I thought I would get a lot of backlash for this comment) :/

  • Do Tell

    It’s easy to feel that way when you are not a movie actor. An Oscar is a dream, just like sports teams aspire to win trophies. It’s a competition that actors want to win. Some of these actors will only get one chance in a lifetime to truly shine. They want to be recognized for their work. Adrian Brody won 1 Oscar and his career seems to have all but disappeared. I’m very surprised that Denzel Washington hasn’t won two Best Actor Oscars by now. I thought he was better than Al Pacino in 1993.

  • Benny Ehud

    You earn a trophy. You earn s championship. It’s not a vote. You go out there and take it.

    Oscars are arbitrary. It’s politicking. It’s bullsh**. If you need an Oscar to shine when you are already making millions, you are pathetic. If you are young, black male and you need a 60 yr old white man to give you validation on your movie, you are caught up on the wrong sh**.

    Their dreams are misplaced. You place your dreams in some arbitrary bullsh**. Winning a championship in sports is absolutely nothing like winning an Oscar. It’s more like getting voted to start in an All-Star game. Kobe is going to start when he shouldn’t even be an All-Star. They are giving him a lifetime achievement award, basically LOL That’s what they are doing for Leo this time around. IT’S ARBITRARY.

  • Do Tell

    These actors are not looking for validation from old white men. They are looking for “fairness.” They already know when they’ve done an excellent job. They get praised by other people and their films “take off” at the box office. Yes, some make a lot of money (like Smith), but money is not the only thing motivating them. They love the art form. They love acting.

    That said, what I see these actors pushing for now is more diversity in the “Academy.” It shouldn’t anymore be 94% old white men. I’ve said before the Academy needs more women, younger people and not just black people but other races–Latinos, Asians, Indians etc, as well. In other words, they want the awards to no longer be arbitrary.

  • Do Tell

    I try to watch the films that are getting nominated to see what the “men of the Academy” have seen and to see how unbelievable their opinions are to me.

    This year, they have nominated an actor in “Bridge of Spies” over Benicio Del Toro. I can’t BELIEVE it! Benicio’s film, “Sicario,” was really good and entertaining. Benicio was great! Bridge of Spies had a good story, but it was pretty boring. The actor barely acted. He played a very dry character who barely spoke. It was not great acting, imo.

    Injustice.

  • Benny Ehud

    Fairness? What’s fair when you are going on opinions? What movie or actors did they want nominated?
    You can love acting and love film without winning or being nominated for an Oscar.

    Why shouldn’t it be 94% old, white men? They invented it LOL Make up another award’s show. Quit following after them.

  • Benny Ehud

    I didn’t like Sicario–the parts I watched of it. I stopped watching it and read the ending on Wiki.

    I don’t care about ANYBODY’S opinion but mine when it comes to entertaining me! I like T.I. He is one of my favorite artists of all time. He will never when a Grammy for Album of the Year. I don’t give a sh**. I am not listening to country album that won Album of the Year. I like what I like. I don’t need ANYONE, let alone an old, white man, telling me what is good.

    They made the award shows. They can give the award to who they want to. And I can ignore the award shows. I don’t give sh** about them LOL I really don’t.

  • Do Tell

    I believe a lot of the actors have been complaining for years behind closed doors. But they barely get any work as it is, so they haven’t made their disappointments public. But the Smiths are wealthy and Will Smith is a very popular actor who still gets decent work. I guess they can afford to say something.

  • Melissa Iris

    Everything is always about black people. There’s PLENTY of black actors, actresses, etc. that win. I don’t see a lot of movies in general so I don’t know but maybe the black performances this year weren’t that good and so they should snub white performers because you need a black nominee? I don’t think so. If they hated black people soo much, then Chris Rock wouldn’t have been asked to host.

  • James Andrews

    Some years unforgettable performances win, some years forgettable performances win. That’s the nature of the beast when humans are voting their hearts and minds. Influences of all sorts, both fair and unfair, can come into play. This is why, as Black and minority filmmakers, we should not overly concern ourselves with the paragon that is Oscar. I love the Oscars, but these false gods are not what where our primary focus should be. We should keep our eye on the prize. Our focus should be on jobs and opportunities in the industry. If you build it, they will come.

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