Skip to Content

The Award Goes to #OscarsSoWhite

The 2019 Oscars went off without a hitch or a host, a night of historic firsts and real diversity, with some shrugs and squints along the way.

Regina King won the best supporting actress award for If Beale Street Could Talk, and director Spike Lee took home his first non-honorary Oscar for best adapted screenplay for BlacKkKlansman, bounding into the arms of presenter and longtime friend, Samuel L. Jackson before he accepted his award.

Black Panther may have lost best picture to Green Book, but Ruth E. Carter, costume designer, and Hannah Beachler, production designer, became the first black women in their fields to win for their work on the film.

And although Roma didn’t sweep the awards, the film had a big night, winning for best cinematography and best foreign film, with Alfonso Cuarón earning best director. The utterly charming and deserving Olivia Colman won lead actress for her work in The Favourite, salving the sting for fans of Yalitzia Aparacio, who was nominated for her work in Roma. In her case, the nod is truly a victory: Aparacio is the first Indigenous actor ever to be nominated.

Even Selma Blair made inclusion news, tearful and resplendent on the runway in a gown and cane after her diagnosis of multiple sclerosis last year.

Mahershala Ali won best supporting actor for his role as pianist Don Shirley in Green Book, making him one of the most awarded black actors in history. But the film was unpopular with some who saw the film as a retrograde portrayal of racial dynamics, including bigoted depictions of Italian Americans, at a time when more nuanced interpretations of history are readily available.

“Every suspicion you might entertain — that this will be a sentimental tale of prejudices overcome and common humanity affirmed; that its politics will be as gently middle-of-the-road as its humor; that it will invite a measure of self-congratulation about how far we, as a nation, have come — will be confirmed,” wrote critic A.O. Scott last year, calling the film “A Road Trip Through a Land of Racial Clichés.”

But as far as I’m concerned, the night belonged to April Reign, lawyer, activist, consultant, writer, speaker, and movement creator.

It was Reign who galvanized a conversation about representation in the industry with a keen observation on the February morning the Oscar nominees were announced in 2015.

“#OscarsSoWhite they asked to touch my hair,” she tweeted that morning, adding a side-eye emoji.

She wasn’t wrong. All twenty acting award slots had been filled by white nominees, a shut-out which hadn’t happened since 1998. It was also the year that both Ava DuVernay, the director of the resplendent Selma, and David Oyelowo, who played Martin Luther King, Jr. in the film, were snubbed; yet another sign that the industry remained closed to diverse voices and unmoved by public sentiment.

Reign’s hashtag began trending immediately, unleashing one of the great pile-ons in Twitter history, with film fans and advocates uniting to demand that the Academy do better. The industry had some work to do: In 2015, Oscar voters were 94% white, 77% male and a median age of 62.

And then, the proverbial needle began to move.

A chastised and newly engaged Academy got to work and invited 322 new members in 2015, 683 in 2016, 774 in 2017, and 928 in 2018. Assuming all invitations were accepted and memberships maintained, The Hollywood Reporter says that Oscar voters should now be close to 31 percent women and 16 percent people of color.

Reign has continued to be a force to be reckoned with, as she deftly leverages her moment into a movement of openness, visibility, and accountability in entertainment and beyond.

And this year, she was invited to have a seat at the ceremony.

“After creating the hashtag and working for almost five years to turn it into a movement that not only changed the Academy but made its way into so many other industries, I feel immense pride and a sense of coming full circle, back to the where it all began,” she told The Hollywood Reporter.

And Spike Lee made sure the world knew her name.

Backstage, the new Oscar winner thanked Reign and former Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs for their roles in expanding academy membership.

“Without them, I wouldn’t be here tonight,” he said. “They opened up the Academy to make it more like America, to make it more diverse.”

In typical April Reign style, she brought her followers along with her Instagram stories and on Twitter.

“I’m so thankful to be in this room tonight, of all nights. If I had been able to choose any year, it would be this one. Thank you to everyone who reads this; you helped make it happen. #AprilsOscarWeekend #OscarsSoWhite.”

 

On Point

Veterans are dying by suicide on VA hospital campusesFrom October 2017 to November 2018, 19 people died by suicide, after attempting to get help from a system that some feel has failed them. This story is quick to point out the mechanisms of suicide are complex, but the stories themselves are wrenching. The most recent happened weeks before Christmas, Marine Col. Jim Turner, 55, dressed in his uniform and medals, sat on top of his military and VA health records and killed himself with a rifle outside of a Department of Veterans Affairs. “I bet if you look at the 22 suicides a day you will see VA screwed up in 90%,” he wrote in a note found near his body.Washington Post

Time’s Up CEO resigns amid allegations against her son
Lisa Borders, the first-ever CEO for the organization dedicated to combating workplace harassment, has stepped down after only three months on the job. In a revised statement on the matter, the organization confirmed the cause: Sexual assault allegations against her son. “Within 24 hours, Lisa made the decision to resign as President and CEO… and we agreed that it was the right decision for all parties involved. All of our actions were fully guided by our support for survivors.”
Quartz

Check out the upcoming Inclusion in The Workplace Forum, hosted by The Atlantic
The half-day session is scheduled for March 7, 2019 and aims to address a fundamental question: Why is change so slow? Why has the call for diversity failed to yield any meaningful results? Speakers include some raceAhead luminaries: Molly Q. Ford from Salesforce, Minda Harts, adjunct professor, podcaster and founder of The Memo, and Aarti Bokar from IBM Watson Talent, IBM.
The Atlantic

You’re going to want to meet Sally in HR. Really
Speaking of Minda Harts, consider putting her podcast, Secure The Seat, on regular rotation in your routine. She interviews women of color who offer smart, specific tactics on thriving and growing in the corporate world. If you’re new and need a laugh, start with this conversation with Kelechi Okafor the creator of the hilarious character, #SallyInHR. Okafor is a multi-hyphenate talent – an actor, director, dance innovator and podcaster, who back in the day, found office jobs stifling. “As an actor I was noticing what was not being said,” she says of the microaggressions that plague the workplace. The character of Sally shows up periodically in short, animated videos to take a call and solve a thorny problem for an underrepresented employee. It’s cringe-worthy truth to power. “All of the people I’ve encountered in the corporate world have elements of Sally, she says.
Secure The Seat

The Woke Leader

The eight lies of Hollywood bias
Racially insensitive casting choices and other exclusionary tactics come in predictable forms—placing a white character in a role written for a person of color, centering a white hero in a story that borrows from “exotic” cultures, or just failing to cast people of color at all. Angie Han does an admirable job breaking down the nonsense excuses studios use to defend these choices and explains why they no longer work. I guarantee you’ve heard versions of these come out of the mouths of executives you know in other industries, too. “We just hired the best person for the job,” is always one of my favorites.
Mashable

Why not lose a little time to history?
Sadly, nobody mentioned the actual Green Book last night, the essential guide for black travelers trying to stay safe during Jim Crow. The New York Public Library has, I believe, the largest collection of Green Books, all of which are digitized and searchable. From the introduction to the 1949 edition: “With the introduction of this travel guide in 1936, it has been our idea to give the Negro traveler information that will keep him from running into difficulties, embarrassments and to make his trips more enjoyable…There will be a day sometime in the near future when this guide will not have to be published. That is when we as a race will have equal opportunities and privileges in the United States. It will be a great day for us to suspend this publication for then we can go wherever we please, and without embarrassment.”
NYPL

When the human face becomes the canvas
You’ll recognize the work of Nobumichi Asai right away. He’s the artist who created the face mapping for Lady Gaga at the Grammys in 2016, and this “Connected Colors” video for a recent global campaign by Intel. The Tokyo based visual designer has a resume that reads like a mad scientist, but his now signature move—real-time face tracking and 3-D projection mapping feels consistently otherworldly. Here’s just one short but mesmerizing video called Inori, or prayer. Click around for more and watch your day fly by.
Vimeo

Quote

Does not fit any of the pigeon-hole categories into which show business likes to put people. Although he makes use of the jazz idiom, he cannot be called a jazz pianist. Although he makes use of the blues idiom, he cannot be called a blues pianist. Because he makes use of the jazz, blues and classical idioms and often develops thematic materials in the manner of a serious composer, he cannot be called a popular pianist. Because he devotes his performing and creative talent to ‘music of the people’ –folk songs, blues, spirituals and so-called popular songs – he cannot be called a classical pianist.
—Archie Bleyer, President of Cadence Records talking about Don Shirley