The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has invited 842 new members from 59 countries, 50 percent of whom are female and 29 percent are people of color to join its esteemed organization.
Among the actors invited are “Black Panther”s Winston Duke and Letitia Wright, Sterling K. Brown and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje. For the directors’ branch Nigeria’s Tunde Kelani (“The Lion and the Jewel,” “The Narrow Pat”) and David E. Talbert (“Almost Christmas,” “First Sunday”) were also invited while Julius Amedume (“Mr. Graham, Mary & John”) made it through in the Short Films and Feature Animation category. Amedume, a Ghanian director, recently won a Pan African Film Festival Award for his feature film “Rattlesnakes.”
In an article, first published in 2012, the Los Angeles Times found Oscar voters are nearly 94% Caucasian and 77% male. Black members make up about 2% of the Academy, and Latino members less than 2% and since the backlash of the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag campaign four years ago, the Academy has strived to include minorities having realized there is work to be done to get Hollywood to realize diversity sells.
These incremental changes began under former Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences president Cheryl Boone Isaacs, who vowed to double the number of women and people of color in the Academy’s membership by 2020. Isaacs acted to “alter the make-up” of their membership, after Spike Lee and Jada Pinkett Smith’s refusal to attend because of the mostly white nominees back in 2016.
The Academy also changed its voting structure so that members who have not been active in the film community for more than a decade may now be ineligible to vote for nominees.
Academy membership is limited to film artists working in the production of theatrically-released motion pictures. The Academy has 17 branches, for the crafts ranging from Actors to Writers and membership in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is by invitation only.
By Samantha Ofole-Prince