Spike Lee, Jada Pinkett Smith to Boycott the 2016 Oscars Over Lack of Nominees’ Diversity

Will other Hollywood insiders follow?

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Once again, the Oscar nomination pool is nearly exclusively white, and some Hollywood heavyweights are not having it.

Actress Jada Pinkett Smith and director Spike Lee have said they will boycott the 2016 Oscar ceremony after the Academy awarded Best Actor and Actress nominations to only white performers. Pinkett Smith’s husband, Will Smith, was among the leading contenders for a Best Actor nomination for his performance in the NFL drama Concussion. Lee, who was awarded an Honorary Oscar the Academy’s Governor’s Ball in November, was expected to attend in recognition of his recent honor.

Lee made the announcement on his Instagram on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day: 

#OscarsSoWhite… Again. I Would Like To Thank President Cheryl Boone Isaacs And The Board Of Governors Of The Academy Of Motion Pictures Arts And Sciences For Awarding Me an Honorary Oscar This Past November. I Am Most Appreciative. However My Wife, Mrs. Tonya Lewis Lee And I Will Not Be Attending The Oscar Ceremony This Coming February. 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? And Let's Not Even Get Into The Other Branches. 40 White Actors In 2 Years And No Flava At All. We Can't Act?! WTF!! It's No Coincidence I'm Writing This As We Celebrate The 30th Anniversary Of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's Birthday. Dr. King Said “There Comes A Time When One Must Take A Position That Is Neither Safe, Nor Politic, Nor Popular But He Must Take It Because Conscience Tells Him It's Right”. For Too Many Years When The Oscars Nominations Are Revealed, My Office Phone Rings Off The Hook With The Media Asking Me My Opinion About The Lack Of African-Americans And This Year Was No Different. For Once, (Maybe) I Would Like The Media To Ask All The White Nominees And Studio Heads How They Feel About Another All White Ballot. If Someone Has Addressed This And I Missed It Then I Stand Mistaken. As I See It, The Academy Awards Is Not Where The “Real” Battle Is. It's In The Executive Office Of The Hollywood Studios And TV And Cable Networks. This Is Where The Gate Keepers Decide What Gets Made And What Gets Jettisoned To “Turnaround” Or Scrap Heap. This Is What's Important. The Gate Keepers. Those With “The Green Light” Vote. As The Great Actor Leslie Odom Jr. Sings And Dances In The Game Changing Broadway Musical HAMILTON, “I WANNA BE IN THE ROOM WHERE IT HAPPENS”. People, The Truth Is We Ain't In Those Rooms And Until Minorities Are, The Oscar Nominees Will Remain Lilly White. (Cont'd)

A photo posted by Spike Lee (@officialspikelee) on

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Pinkett Smith made her announcement via a Facebook video, saying: 

[People of color] no longer need to ask to be invited anywhere…The Academy has the right to acknowledge whomever they choose…Maybe it is time that we pull back our resources and put them back into our communities…Hey Chris [Rock, the host of the 2016 Oscars], I will not be at the Academy Awards and I won’t be watching.

But one Hollywood performer is not impressed with Pinkett Smith’s boycott. Janet Hubert, who played Aunt Viv on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air until she was replaced — a casting change she blames on co-star Will Smith — accused Pinkett Smith of hypocrisy in a YouTube video in which she said the following: 

I find it ironic that somebody who has made their living, and made millions and millions of dollars from the very people you’re talking about boycotting just because you didn’t get a nomination, just because you didn’t win. That is not the way life works, baby…You ain’t Barack and Michelle Obama. Ya’ll need to get over yourselves.

The Oscars will be broadcast on February 28. 

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Ellen Killoran