When comedian Chris Rock took to the Dolby Theatre stage to start the Oscars telecast Sunday night, the track “Fight the Power” by rap group Public Enemy played in the background. That same song, used by Spike Lee to cap his seminal film “Do the Right Thing,” also played at the end of the show as the credits rolled. Both instances were a reminder, comedic or otherwise, to keep pushing for greater diversity prompted by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' mostly white list of nominees for a second year in a row. And fighting the power is what the #OscarsSoWhite movement plans to continue doing.
Here are the ways some proponents of increased diversity believe the conversation can continue now that awards season is over.
April Reign, creator of #OscarsSoWhite:
“The lack of nominees from marginalized communities was just a symptom of a much larger problem. The pressure must still be placed on Hollywood studio executives to make more quality films that represent marginalized communities so that they can be nominated. In the coming months, I would hope that we see from the academy and from all of the people in the film industry that they are applying pressure to the Hollywood studios to greenlight films from a broader perspective.”
“I would encourage everybody to be more mindful of the movies on which they spend their hard earned money. If the cast does not look like them, does not represent their stories, perhaps choose not to see their films and instead seek out stories that tell the diversity and the beauty and nuance of all people.”
Todd Boyd, professor of cinema and media studies at USC:
“There need to be people in positions of power to greenlight movies, holding the reins of financing movies, across the board, and you actually have to go out and make an effort to make the environment more diverse. It's not going to happen on its own.”
“Honestly, I think a lot of people in Hollywood feel like, "Look, I'm not doing anything to block anybody" — and they aren't necessarily, not overtly anyway. But it's more than just "I'm not doing anything to block anybody" – what are you doing to make space for people who have been historically excluded?”
Gil Robertson, president of the African American Film Critics Assn.:
“If Hollywood wants to take on a leadership role and show the rest of this country that there’s a different way [of dealing with race], then they need to act like it. That’s going to start by them taking a real honest look at themselves and their practices in the mirror and just asking the question, 'What can I do to make a difference?' and really meaning it.”
“I want to see the putting together of a multicultural group of journalists to continue this conversation. It's important that we do that because the way the conversation has been had traditionally is in black and white terms. I think it is important that we encourage our Hispanic and Asian and other brothers and sisters to also be vocal, and to give them room to be vocal. We need to work collaboratively to see results.”
Stephane Dunn, professor of cinema at Morehouse College:
“Unless we are talking about film companies and casting companies being interrogated and being asked to think about their business practices and how those practices reinforce the exclusivity in Hollywood, we’ll still be stuck on #OscarsSoWhite with these intermittent years with a couple nominees of color. The only way to move beyond that is to move behind closed doors where the public doesn’t see the business deals being made. We don’t see how problematic the room makeup is. We don't see how closed the mind set is. [It needs to be about] diversifying the decision-making rooms.”
“It is the type of value, the height, that we place on the Oscars that is problematic. We must interrogate our hype and our investment in it culturally.”
Times reporter Josh Rottenberg contributed to this report.
Get your life! Follow me on Twitter: @TrevellAnderson.