Yesterday, Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences President Cheryl Boone Isaacs issued a statement promising that the Academy would be taking “dramatic steps” to address the issue of diversity among its membership. And if you think the head of the Academy can comfortably avoid this roiling controversy, you’d be mistaken. Last night, David Oyelowo spoke about the problem directly to Boone’s face.
Presenting Boone Isaacs with an award at the King Legacy Awards, Oyelowo used the opportunity to directly address those assembled regarding what he sees as an outrage in this year’s nominations. “The Academy has a problem,” he said. “It’s a problem that needs to be solved.”
“A year ago, I did a film called ‘Selma,’ and after the Academy Awards, Cheryl invited me to her office to talk about what went wrong then,” he continued. “We had a deep and meaningful [conversation]. For 20 opportunities to celebrate actors and actresses of color to be missed last year is one thing; for that to happen again this year is unforgivable.”
To the those who say that the Oscars are meaningless anyway, Oyelowo has a response. “The reason why the Oscars are so important is because it is the zenith, it is the epitome, it is the height of celebration of artistic endeavor within the filmmaking community,” he said. “We grow up aspiring, dreaming, longing to be accepted into that august establishment, because it is the height of excellence. I would like to walk away and say it doesn’t matter, but it does, because that acknowledgement changes the trajectory of your life, your career, and the culture of the world we live in.
“The Academy is an institution [for] which they all say radical and timely change cannot happen quickly,” Oyelowo continued. “It better happen quickly. The law of this country can change in a matter of months. It better come on. The Oscars [take place] on February 28. Cheryl needs us to pray that by that date change is going to come. We need to pray for Cheryl, we need to support Cheryl, we need to love Cheryl. We cannot afford to get bitter, we cannot afford to get negative. But we must make our voices heard.”