Earlier this week, actress Jada Pinkett-Smith made a candid, yet bold video calling for a boycott of this year's Academy Awards ceremony, after yet another year of all white nominations in all the acting categories, snubbing actors such as Idris Elba, Michael B. Jordan, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, and her husband, Will Smith. Pinkett-Smith’s call to action included the following:
"Begging for acknowledgement, or even asking, diminishes dignity and diminishes power. And we are a dignified people, and we are powerful," she said. "So let's let the Academy do them, with all grace and love. And let's do us, differently." - Jada Pinkett Smith
The same day, self-proclaimed “blacktress” Janet Hubert slammed The Smith’s, claiming that the only reason Jada cared about this year's lack of diverse nominations, was because of Will’s exclusion from the Best Actor category, for his latest film, “Concussion”. Hubert, who played the original Vivian Banks in the 90’s sitcom, “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air”, alongside Will, has had a longstanding feud with the star, stemming from internal conflicts between the two actors. Hubert had this to stay in response to Pinkett-Smith’s video:
Now while I enjoy a good read as much as the next person, as the last couple of days have passed, Hubert’s response has picked up quite a bit of traction, which doesn't really surprise me.
Do you know what bothers me though?
The fact that there are so many cynical black folks are against the boycott. You'd rather mock and criticize someone for trying to take a stand against something, instead of applauding them for their actions. Ya'll let Janet Hubert's bitterness and disdain for Will Smith warp your view of the bigger issue here.
Change always has to start somewhere. And while some may think that the Oscars aren't a worthy cause for someone to undertake, there are SO many people of color, past and present who were worthy of Academy Awards that were never recognized for their achievements. That really needs to change. The sad fact is that there will be so many young actors and actresses of color who will never be properly recognized for their talent, because institutionalized racism will limit their potential. This is a fact.
Let me state some more facts:
- There have been 87 Academy Awards ceremonies.
- Out of all of the ceremonies previously held, and across all categories, only 31 black men and women have been awarded Oscars.
- Conversely, only 25 men and women of Latin descent have been awarded, across all available categories, many of which are multiple award recipients.
Am I the only one that sees an issue here?
Two of the only 31 African Americans that have been awarded Oscars in the 87 years that the award ceremony has existed.
Can the argument be made that Jada is speaking out because Will Smith wasn’t nominated? Yes. However, Jada is an established successful actress in her own right. Why can’t she also be speaking out for herself and countless other minorities in the entertainment industry that are being overlooked?
Having followed Jada for a number of years on social media, I can definitively say that she has been vehemently outspoken on a large array of topics that both affect the black community, and the world as a whole.
Her views have always been independent to those of Will’s, and to lump her together with Will for the sole reason that she is his wife, is ridiculous, and shows a serious dissension in our community when it comes to supporting our own.
Critics have also said, why speak out now? Why didn’t Jada speak out last year, when once again African Americans were for the large part shut out and unrecognized for their work? The answer is simple, thanks to social media, numerous issues relating to race and black life in America have been raised.
For the first time in nearly twenty years, the focus is on the Academy and the entertainment industry as a whole, concerning the under representation of African Americans.
Twenty years ago, in 1996, The Rainbow Coalition, led by Reverend Jesse Jackson, planned a protest regarding African Americans and other racial minorities in the film industry. The group voiced its objections to the unflattering portrayals of minorities in film and television and the fact that minorities were underemployed in the entertainment industry. Jackson further pointed out the disparity in racial minorities in Hollywood by noting that Best Live Action Short Film nominee Dianne Houston was the only African American nominated that year.
The unfortunate fact, is that while a stand was taken in 1996, here we are, TWENTY years later, still talking about the same issue. An issue much bigger than Janet Hubert’s beef with the Smiths. An issue that has quite arguably affected her own career. An issue that affects not only African Americans, but Latinos, Native Americans, and every other ethnic group that isn't Caucasian.
So, while Aunt Viv may still be pressed over her wronged dismissal from the Fresh Prince over 20 years ago, I believe the time has come in which she lets it go, and sets her sights on something bigger and better.
But what do I know? Maybe she did this to grab a guest spot on Empire. Ya’ll know that ain't a hard gig to get.
Aunt Viv, you know you wrong. To the Academy, so are you.
To Jada, keep fighting.
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