Oscar Nominations Kick Off Third Year of Minority Protest Against Hollywood

The Oscars in 2016 were so whiteEXPAND
The Oscars in 2016 were so white
Ted Soqui/L.A. Weekly

The dearth of Latinos among major acting nominations for the 89th Oscars which were announced this morninghas marked a third year of criticism for Hollywood's lack of diversity.

Najee Ali, CEO of Project Islamic Hope, was scheduled to announce today that protesters again will be marching outside the perimeter of the Academy Awards, on Feb. 26. African-Americans returned to the acting categories after a two-year hiatus that inspired the #OscarsSoWhite social media campaign — Denzel Washington, Viola Davis, Mahershala Ali and Octavia Spencer were among African-Americans nominated in the acting categories, and the pictures they were in — Fences, Moonlight and Hidden Figures — received film nominations today. But the near absence of Latinos (Lin-Manuel Miranda, who wrote Moana's "How Far I'll Go," was nominated for original song)  leaves critics with plenty to fight for in their quest for change.

Ali says he's leading a second-year boycott of the ceremony. "We still intend on putting pressure on Hollywood studios," Ali said.*

Last week Ali applied for a permit to demonstrate outside the Dolby Theater awards security zone, at Sunset Boulevard and Highland Avenue, from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Oscars Sunday, according to a copy of the filing. Al Sharpton and supporters from his National Action Network joined last year and are invited to come this year, Ali says.

Studies have consistently shown that Latinos are among the least represented ethnic groups in film and television — in a town where nearly half the inhabitants are of Latino descent. Ali argues that just because African-Americans are having a good year in Hollywood doesn't mean the pressure to diversify should subside — or that the industry will honor black actors next time around.

"This protest is for everyone," he says "I'm cautioning African-Americans to still come out and participate in the protest. ... Nobody should be embracing this year's Oscars until there's diversity across the board."

It's not clear if the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag will enjoy a large presence on social media this year. Its creator, entertainment journalist and social media guru April Reign, however, said via email, "It's still very much relevant."

Felix Sanchez, co-founder of the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts, says that pressure on Hollywood needs to continue this year because otherwise the industry will continue to see diversity as "exclusively a black-white issue."

In 2014, with one out of four movie tickets purchased by Latinos, industry trade publication The Wrap called Latinos "Hollywood's most important audience." Yet last year a USC study found that only 5.3 percent of roles in top-grossing films it examined went to Latinos.

"We are the hand that feeds the industry," Sanchez said. "And the industry does not recognize that at all. There has to be more of a consciousness about it."

*CORRECTED at 7:22 a.m.: Ali, speaking before nominations were announced, assumed no Latinos or Asians would be nominated in major categories. Dev Patel of Lion was nominated for best supporting actor. We deleted that portion of Ali's remarks.


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