In a video posted to Facebook on Monday morning (Jan. 18), Pinkett Smith lamented the lack of diversity among this year’s crop of nominees, while also recognizing the importance of the date.
“Today is Martin Luther King’s birthday. And I can’t help but ask the question: Is it time that people of color recognize how much power and influence that we have amassed, that we no longer need to ask to be invited anywhere?
“Here’s what I believe,” she continued. “The Academy has the right to acknowledge whomever they choose, to invite whomever they choose. And now I think that it’s our responsibility to make the change. Maybe it is time that we pull back our resources and we put them back into our communities, into our programs, and we make programs for ourselves that acknowledge us in ways that we see fit, that are just as good as the so-called mainstream ones.”
The actress said she will not attend the show on Feb. 28, nor will she be watching from home — and she wants others to take the same approach.
“Begging for acknowledgement or even asking diminishes dignity and diminishes power,” she said. “We are a dignified people and we are powerful — let’s not forget it. So let’s let the Academy do them with all grace and love, and let’s do us differently.”
Pinkett Smith initially hinted at her plans to boycott this year’s show over the weekend, when she asked on Twitter, “Should people of color refrain from participating all together?”
Lee echoed a similar sentiment on Instagram, where he posted a black-and-white photo of Martin Luther King Jr., accompanied by a lengthy explanation of why he and his wife will not attend this year’s ceremony.
“#OscarsSoWhite... Again,” he began. “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 two years and no flava at all. We can’t act?! WTF!!”
Lee, too, said it’s “no coincidence” that his post falls on the national holiday celebrating Dr. King’s civil rights efforts.
"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 wrote. "For too many years, when the Oscar nominations are revealed, my office phone rings off the hook with the media asking me my opinion about the lack of African-Americans and this year was no different. For once (maybe), I would like the media to ask all the white nominees and studio heads how they feel about another all-white ballot. If someone has addressed this and I missed it then I stand mistaken."
Despite the controversy, the director said the “real battle” isn’t really with the Academy, but with the “executive office of the Hollywood studios and TV and cable networks” where vital decisions are made about which projects get chosen and which actors are cast.
“The truth is we ain’t in those rooms and until minorities are, the Oscar nominees will remain lily white,” he wrote.
This is the second year in a row that, among the 20 people nominated in the top acting categories at the Oscars, none are people of color. Hopeful contenders like "Creed's" Michael B. Jordan, the "Straight Outta Compton" cast and Smith's husband Will, who starred in "Concussion," were shut out, prompting the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag to start trending again.
Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs addressed the issue last week, telling Deadline, “Of course I am disappointed. But this is not to take away the greatness [of the films nominated]. This has been a great year in film, it really has across the board.”
Still, she did admit that the Academy’s efforts at embracing diversity are moving far too sluggishly.
“You are never going to know what is going to appear on the sheet of paper until you see it,” she said. “We have got to speed it up.”