Congressmen send letter to film academy and call diversity plan a 'first step'

Members of Congress are commending the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for its new diversity initiatives, offering support as the organization moves forward with its efforts.

Representatives Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) and John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) sent a letter to academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs on Wednesday saying the group's "recently announced plan to increase diversity should be seen as a first step toward a broader plan to increase diversity in Hollywood as a whole; however, we hope to ensure this is not a false step." 

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The congressmen invited Boone Isaacs and other academy members to meet with government representatives "to continue this dialogue."

"We have been long-time champions of inclusion in the entertainment industry, and we believe the academy can play a crucial role in promoting and recognizing diverse voices throughout Hollywood," the letter reads.

The letter comes nearly two weeks after the academy announced plans to double the number of women and minorities in the group by 2020. Some members' lifetime voting rights will be affected by the new rules, which pertain to how active members have been in the film industry.

The academy took action to diversify its ranks after all 20 of the actors nominated for Oscars were — for the second year in a row — white. 

"Though the talents of African Americans have been recognized throughout the Academy's history, overall progress in the entertainment industry — like many other industries — has been uneven and mirrors our society's struggle for diversity," the congressmen's letter continued. "We therefore believe a continuing failure to recognize such an important segment of the population by the industry in general and the academy in particular may have a negative effect on competition and diversity in this critical market place."  

amy.kaufman@latimes.com

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