April Reign

Oscar nominations were announced Jan. 14 and, for the second year in a row, no Black actors were nominated for any of the 20 slots in the four acting categories.

In a year that saw Will Smith star in “Concussion,” Idris Elba in “Beasts of No Nation” and Michael B. Jordan in “Creed,” the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences did not nominate any of those actors.

A similar outcome last year prompted April Reign to start the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite to raise awareness of the issue in Hollywood. Reign worked as an attorney for 20 years but left that life behind to pursue her passion for the arts. She currently serves as the managing editor of the website Broadwayblack.com and is the editor-at-large for NU Tribe magazine.

“I think that we need to call both the academy and Hollywood in general to task for a lack of inclusion for marginalized communities,” Reign told the AFRO. “Not just for the films we see actors and actresses on the screen, but also with respect to those behind the cameras and how those decisions are made and which films will be greenlit.”

Since its launch, the hashtag has gone viral, Reign said, prompting conversations around the issue of diversity in entertainment. Reign also believes it may have had a part in The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences’ decision to add more than 300 new members.

“The hashtag has been in existence for over a year. It was trending No. 1 on Twitter yesterday and a year ago,” Reign said.

Even though no Black actors received any nominations, there were films about people of color that received some recognition. “Straight Outta Compton,” the story about the rise of the rap group N.W.A, received a screenwriting nomination; and “What Happened, Miss Simone?,” an examination of singer and civil rights activist Nina Simone’s life is up for Best Documentary Feature.

Still, Reign doesn’t think that is enough.

“Even though films about Black people are being made – and definitely not at the number we would like to see – the people that are being nominated aren’t people of color,” Reign said.

In “Straight Outta Compton” the screen writers are White, and in “What Happened, Miss Simone?” the director, Liz Garbus is White.

Reign suggested that the voters should better represent the society.

“The make-up of the Academy is older, White and male,” Reign said. “That doesn’t represent the country as a whole and it doesn’t represent all of the movie-goers.”

Reign also believes voters should see all of the films in the category for which they are voting, which is not required.

“If you’re voting for Best Picture, there is no requirement that you see all of the Best Picture nominees and that doesn’t make sense because that means people are voting for the people that they know and stories they may be interested in, as opposed to what the best film is,” Reign said.