Film director Spike Lee and star Jada Pinkett Smith are boycotting Hollywood's Academy Awards ceremony because no minority actor was nominated for an Oscar for the second year in a row.
Lee announced his decision in an Instagram post beginning #OscarsSowhite, asking: "How is it possible for the 2nd consecutive year all 20 contenders under the actor category are white? And let's not even get into the other branches. 40 white actors in 2 years and no flava at all? We Can't Act?! WTF!!"
Quoting Martin Luther King, he added: "Dr. King said: 'There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular but he must take it because conscience tells him it's right". Lee said until minorities are in "the rooms" in Hollywood where decisions are made, the "Oscar nominees will remain lily white."
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences has faced years of criticism that its 7,000-plus members who vote on the Oscars are mostly older white males.
Lee accepted an honorary Oscar in November 2015; his latest provocative film, Chiraq, received no nominations. #OscarsSoWhite trended on social media after a number of black Oscar hopefuls, including Beasts of No Nation's star Idris Elba, Creed star Michael B. Jordan and writer-director, Ryan Coogler, and the cast of Straight Outta Compton, were overlooked for nominations.
Lee urged the media to "ask all the white nominees and studio heads how they feel about another all-white ballot," saying he was tired of being asked his opinion repeatedly about the lack of minorities.
Pinkett Smith announced on a video posted on her Facebook page that she would not be attending the event — or watching it. Husband Will Smith was overlooked in the best actor category for his role as Dr. Bennet Omalu in Concussion, a film about brain injuries in American football.
"Have we now come to a new time and place where we recognise that we can no longer beg for the love, acknowledgment or respect of any group?" she asks. "Begging for acknowledgement, or even asking, diminishes dignity and diminishes power. And we are a dignified people, and we are powerful."
Just days earlier, she had hinted at a boycott when she posted: "At the Oscars, people of colour are always welcomed to give out awards, even entertain, but we are rarely recognised for our artistic accomplishments. Should people of colour refrain from participating altogether? People can only treat us in the way in which we allow."
The comments raise the possibility that she and Spike Lee could trigger a trend and a wide-scale boycott. Ironically, comedian Chris Rock is hosting the Academy Awards show. Both Pinkett Smith and Lee expressed their continued support of Rock.