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Mahershala Ali in Moonlight

During a recent interview with CinemaBlend to promote Da 5 Bloods, legendary director Spike Lee opened up about ways to widen the platform for other directors of color. Lee felt that the easiest way for marginalized communities to get their stories told in movies or on television was to get more people of color in the gatekeeping roles at the studios. He talked about how executives in Hollywood are the ones making the creative decisions, and until we see more representation at the top, the status quo will prevail.

The Academy, to its credit, started walking that walk, instead of simply talking the talk. Selma and A Wrinkle In Time director Ava DuVernay recently was elected to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Board of Governors. DuVernay will represent the directors branch. All board members serve a three year term.

According to the Academy’s official Website, Oscars.org, BoG members are responsible for the following tasks:

The Board of Governors directs the Academy’s strategic vision, preserves the organization’s financial health and assures the fulfillment of its mission. … Each Governor also serves on one board oversight committee and their branch’s executive committee, and they are expected to represent their branch at numerous Academy events through the year.

In short, by guiding the direction of the Academy on whole, they can be the voice of change that Spike Lee as talking with CinemaBlend about. The Hollywood Reporter notes that in addition to DuVernay, the Academy established new records in the number of female (26) and persons of color (12) currently sitting on the Board of Governors. That’s up from the previous records of 25 and 11, respectively.

Ava DuVernay directing A Wrinkle in Time

It may sound small. But these are exactly the types of changes that need to occur in an organization to trigger sustainable change. To its credit, the Academy has been making the necessary steps to better reflect diversity in its ranks. And as Spike Lee pointed out in our interview, it was after their initial improvements that we started to see movies like Call Me By Your Name, Get Out, Hidden Figures and BlackKklansman earn nominations, while Parasite and Moonlight earned significant wins.

And those changes will continue to expand. Days after Ava DuVernay’s appointment, the Academy implemented even more criteria that it wants Oscar-eligible films to meet regarding diversity and inclusion standards. In a release, Academy CEO Dawn Hudson said:

While the Academy has made strides, we know there is much more work to be done in order to ensure equitable opportunities across the board. The need to address this issue is urgent. To that end, we will amend — and continue to examine — our rules and procedures to ensure that all voices are heard and celebrated.

Here’s Spike Lee talking about that need for voices at the top, a conversation that occurred right as the Academy was taking long-overdue measurements to make that a reality.

I suspect that we will see and hear changes like this implemented at most organizations, but for the time being, applaud the Academy for leading the way toward significant and necessary changes to its long-standing traditions. It’s only by representing all that the movies can appeal to the largest audiences. When we look up at that big screen, we should all recognize ourselves in the stories being told. Today, it feels like we’re a step or two closer to that dream.

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