By Christopher “Flood the Drummer®” Norris
1.19.16: National – (Politics): I understand the appeal winning an Oscar has for a working actor. It is, by all accounts, the holy grail of the motion picture industry. And being acknowledged by that institution can – as Mr. David Oyelowo, who played Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in ‘SELMA,’ claims – change the trajectory of one’s career. Regardless, though, of whether you agree with the nominations year-over-year of the academy’s voting body, the Oscars is a brand with grandiose equity and social clout, thus most people in the motion picture industry who since childhood have desired the chance to grace the big screen, “grow up aspiring, dreaming, longing to be accepted into the august establishment because it is the height of excellence,” said Mr. Oyelowo, who, according to the Hollywood Reporter, declared “the academy has a problem” and used the term “unforgivable” to describe the current circumstances: for two years in a row, not one African-American performer received a nomination.
As a result of this slight, or injustice as some have called it, #OscarsSoWhite has, again, trended on Twitter, and two well-known stars of film – Mr. Spike Lee and Mrs. Jada Pinkett-Smith – have called for, and will participate in, a boycott of the Oscars, which has caught the attention of Ms. Cheryl Boone Isaacs, the African-American President of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, who pledged to pursue “dramatic steps to alter the makeup of our membership.”
Boycotting an institution has, throughout history, proved an effective strategy for achieving an outcome. And, given the circumstances, I think a boycott is appropriate, just as long as there’s more to the celebrity-led activism than just sitting on the sidelines.
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Though the Oscars have great brand equity and influence, so, too, does the many black actors who feel slighted by the institution. Moreover, equity and influence is subjective and, at times, fleeting. Thus, I recommend black actors, in addition to boycotting the Oscars, build, brand, and promote their own institution which acknowledges excellence in African-American produced films and aim to capture market share away from the academy. Mrs. Pinkett-Smith, in her call for the boycott, spoke loosely to the idea of quasi-nationalism in the motion picture industry.
“Begging for acknowledgement, or even asking, diminishes dignity and diminishes power, and we are a dignified people and we are powerful. The Academy has the right to acknowledge whomever they choose, and now I think that it’s our responsibility now to make the change.”
I agree wholeheartedly with Mrs. Pinkett-Smith, we are powerful, and the real power is in our collective effort and economics. To make the change we, African-Americans, want to see in the motion picture industry, we must, in addition to boycotting, build our own institutions.
Mr. Christopher “Flood the Drummer” Norris, along with Philadelphia journalist Ms. Denise Clay, today from 5-6pm on 900am WURD will discuss the ‘Oscar-Blackout.’ CLICK HERE to listen to the show online.
Keep a look out in January 2016 for a NPR Music documentary starring Grammy Award-Winner Mr. Christian McBride and co-starring Mr. Christopher “Flood the Drummer” Norris.
Thanks for reading. Until next time, I’m Flood the Drummer® & I’m Drumming for JUSTICE!™
About Christopher “Flood the Drummer®” Norris
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