Protest of Oscars Is Taking Shape, Jesse Jackson Says
The Rev. Jesse Jackson, backed by a coalition of leaders from community groups and entertainment industry guilds, intensified an attack against what he called racism in the film industry, calling Thursday for picketing in major cities and support from blacks attending next week’s Academy Awards ceremony.
After a three-hour meeting with members of groups ranging from the Writers Guild of America and American Indians in Film to the Los Angeles Urban League and the Brotherhood Crusade, Jackson said he and his group are organizing pickets outside ABC affiliates airing the Oscar telecast Monday in such major cities at New York, Chicago and Atlanta.
To protest the near absence of black Academy Award nominees, he asked that African American attendees wear some kind of symbol showing solidarity against what he called “race exclusion and cultural violence” in Hollywood.
Jackson said he plans to meet today with film executives from several studios to talk about the controversy. Results of that meeting and plans for a more intense protest against the Oscars are to be discussed Saturday at a community meeting spearheaded by Jackson and his Rainbow Coalition for Fairness in the Media.
The civil rights leader said the Oscars would serve as a launching pad for a multicultural effort to persuade film executives and studio heads to employ more minorities in front of and behind the camera. He and others in the group announced the formation of the Hollywood Rainbow Covenant, which he said will negotiate with film executives, as well as plan possible boycotts and consumer action against targeted films that exclude minorities.
Saying he would take his fight “to the marketplace,” Jackson said the group will target an upcoming film that they say excludes or distorts the portrayal of minorities. He said blacks and Latinos alone make up about 35% of the nation’s box office.
“We are going to open up the consciousness of Hollywood,” said Jackson, adding that Hollywood shows blacks and other cultural groups as “less intelligent than we are, less hard-working, less universal, less patriotic and more violent than we are.”
Attending Thursday’s meeting were leaders from several organizations, including the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, the Arab American Anti-Discrimination Committee, the Latino actors’ group, Nosotros and the Los Angeles County Commission on Human Relations.
Bruce Walton, executive director of the Writers Guild of America West, said Jackson’s involvement has invigorated a long-standing fight to include more minority participation in the film industry.
“I sensed a new and different kind of coalition,” Walton said. “Jesse Jackson has breathed new life into this issue.”
Jackson’s pronouncements about the film industry and his statements complaining that only one black was among the 166 Oscar nominees has put a cloud of controversy over the ceremony, which has come under fire in previous years from groups contending that an artist or film was snubbed by the nomination process.
Jackson said he discussed his complaints with Quincy Jones, producer of this year’s ceremony. He said Jones, an African American, understands and sympathizes with Jackson’s concerns about the film industry. Jones has said in interviews that the awards program will be very culturally diverse. For instance, Whoopi Goldberg is hosting this year’s show.
Jackson did not specify what symbol of solidarity might be worn by those at the ceremony. But Bruce Davis, executive director of the Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences, said: “We’ve always said that people are allowed to adorn themselves however they please, as long as they are in formal wear.”