The backlash against the Academy Awards for once again nominating only White actors has intensified. Oscar boycott parties are being hosted across the nation this Sunday, and directors Ava DuVernay and Ryan Coogler recently announced a fundraiser for Flint, Michigan, in response to the area’s lead-poisoned water. The fact that the fundraiser takes place on the same night as the Oscars may be more than mere coincidence.
So what can those opting to stay home do? Well, you can share your views on social media with a new campaign, #SidneysSoWoke. The brainchild of visual artist and social media strategist Adu, the campaign is inspired by the ubiquitous #OscarsSoWhite. Whereas the latter highlights the issue of Hollywood’s lack of diversity and inclusion, Adu views his campaign as more results-oriented. The premise involves using Sidney Poitier, the Academy’s first African American Best Actor winner as the poster child for highlighting other representations of Black people in film. We chatted with Adu to learn more about his campaign that he hopes will flood social media this Sunday during the Oscars.
Some argue that the focus on the Oscars is misplaced. It is argued that the issue of representation, diversity and inclusion is a larger Hollywood issue. How does your campaign fit into that part of the conversation?
I agree that there is a larger issue here of diversity. I truly do believe that this is an issue that goes across the board through the industry but particularly in this case it is art, entertainment and fashion. I feel that through those platforms the larger issue can be addressed. With this particular campaign I wanted to focus on the entertainment industry in that there have been multiple actors, actresses, directors and producers whose brilliant work continuously gets unrecognized due to the oversaturation of a whitewashed society when it comes to advertising, art, music, fashion, entertainment and so many other creative outlets. So if this is a platform to begin or add to the conversation, I am all for it.
According to an article in the NY Times, throughout Oscar history, Black men have been up for Best Actor 20 times, compared to 10 times for Black women in the lead acting category. With Sidney Poitier as the face of your campaign, how do you hope to address issues of gender when it comes to lack of Oscar representation?
I agree firsthand that our sisters have a bigger issue here when it comes to equality. We address this throughout the campaign by acknowledging greats such as Angela Bassett, Cicely Tyson, Alfre Woodard and so many more highly talented sisters who have paved the way for so many actresses. I used Sidney Poitier as the face for this campaign because he was an African American male who carried himself with grace, dignity and was well respected outside of entertainment by everyone. He was a trailblazer for everyone.
The campaign has already generated a healthy response from the social media community. What are your plans for extending the project and keeping the conversation going after the Oscars through social media and/or your art?
This project comes from another project that I did called African Amedia. That project was an art exhibit and performance piece that dealt with police brutality and the negative depiction of African Americans in the media. I plan to continue to use African Amedia as a fine art and creative media outlet that will continue to preserve the history of African-Americans in a creative way. On Feb. 28 we will be taking to social media and extending the campaign by live posting and tweeting using the hashtag #SidneysSoWoke via @AfricanAmedia. We will post some of our favorite black movie classics and acknowledge dynamic actors, actresses, directors and producers. You can never be too vocal about your stance on an issue and hopefully this campaign has contributed to the greater cause which is the issue of representation, diversity and inclusion.