Tag Archives: Twitter

It’s official: The Rihanna and Lupita Nyong’o film is now real!

Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

Who knew Twitter would turn into the next Hollywood casting office! It’s amazing that this tweet about the two stars at a 2014¬†Miu Miu fashion show:

launched this result:

According to Entertainment Weekly:

After a dramatic negotiation session at the Cannes Film Festival, Netflix has nabbed a film project pairing Grammy winner Rihanna with Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o, in a concept that began as a Twitter sensation. Ava DuVernay (Selma) will direct, and Issa Rae (Insecure) is writing the screenplay.

According to sources, Netflix landed the project in a very aggressive bid, beating out multiple other suitors.

The film will go into production in 2018 after DuVernay finishes her latest project. I, for one, is excited for this film and I can’t wait to see it when it comes to Netflix. Twitter–particularly #BlackTwitter, which started the whole movie talk–is excited, too:

Twitter users have also continued the casting train by providing Ava DuVernay tons of suggestions:

As Shadow and Act brought up, the big question is whether the person whose tweet originated this idea will get paid. “This could be one of those precedent-setting situations,” wrote Shadow and Act’s Tambay Obenson. If there is payment on the way, that means that the floodgates have opened for tons of films coming from Twitter, with tons of creators getting some steep royalty checks.

What do you think about this film? Give your opinions in the comments section below!

Fans sound off on their love for “Into the Badlands” couple Sunny and Veil

Daniel Wu as Sunny and Madeleine Mantock as Veil – Into the Badlands, Season 1, Epsiode 2. Patti Perret/AMC

Into the Badlands is coming into its second season March 19, and even though we’re psyched about the level of action and and suspense, we’re also focused on the family aspect of the show, which is worrying about how Sunny’s going to get back to his family, Veil and their newborn baby. Check out the trailer for an insight into what we can expect this season:

One of the elements I’ve loved the most about¬†Into the Badlands¬†is the relationship between Sunny and Veil, especially the backstory behind why Daniel Wu specifically wanted Sunny and Veil (Madeleine Mantock)¬†to be an interracial Asian man/black woman relationship.

As he told Slate:

“…[I]t felt especially important to show an Asian male as having a sensual side. We all know the story of Romeo Must Die, how Jet Li is the movie‚Äôs hero, and the whole time you see this connection developing between him and Aaliyah, who played the female lead. And in the last scene, Li was supposed to kiss her, but when they showed the movie to test audiences, people said they found that disgusting. In the version they released, you just see them give each other a hug. So I don‚Äôt want to say this is groundbreaking, because we need to make this a success yet, but it‚Äôs cool that we were able to right that wrong too. It‚Äôs been 15 years since Romeo Must Die, and 40 years since Kung Fu. That‚Äôs just ridiculous. But it‚Äôs Hollywood, so I‚Äôll take it.”

This point comes up a bit on this site, but Wu’s insistence on redoing¬†Romeo Must Die in his own way is important, since the only other times (at least in my memory) that we’ve seen an interracial AM/BW relationship on TV was during Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella in 1997, with Brandy as the titular character and Paolo Montalban as the prince:

And 2009’s¬†Flash Forward with John Cho as Demetri Noh (who I believe saw his own death??) and Gabrielle Union as his fiancee Zoey Andata:

And until the recent boom in shows featuring Asian American men like Fresh Off the Boat and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the most recent example of an Asian man as the love interest on a show was, once again, Cho in Selfie. 

In short, Into the Badlands is super important to the discussion of representation for interracial relationships, particularly interracial relationships between two non-white individuals and, of course, relationships between Asian men and African American women.

There’s a whole host of other things that makes Sunny and Veil great, so to list them all, I asked the good folks on Twitter why they love Sunny and Veil’s relationship.

Why do you love Sunny and Veil? Give your reasons in the comments section!

Exclusive Interview: #GiveCaptainAmericaABoyfriend Creator Jessica Salerno

The voices are getting louder and stronger for Hollywood, Disney in particular, to include LGBT characters in their properties.

A few weeks ago, the hashtags and ¬†trended on Twitter, showing not only how vast the audience is for mainstream LGBT content (unlike what Hollywood studios think), but also the urgency with which this type of content is needed. Around the same time #GiveElsaAGirlfriend trended, GLAAD released its annual Studio Responsibility Index, which found that out of Disney’s 11 properties released in 2015, none of them featured LGBT characters. (Paramount also featured no LGBT characters in its 2015 output.)

GLAAD stated in the report how Disney could rectify their issue, using Star Wars: The Force Awakens (which I think must be a slightly veiled reference to the online movement for Finn and Poe to be in a relationship). To quote GLAAD:

As sci-fi projects have the special opportunity to create unique worlds whose advanced societies can serve as a commentary on our own, the most obvious place where Disney could include LGBT characters is in the upcoming eighth Star Wars film. 2015’s The Force Awakens has introduced a ¬†new and diverse central trio, which allows the creators opportunity to tell fresh stories as they develop their backstory. Recent official novels in the franchise featured lesbian and gay characters that could also be easily written in to the story.

Elsa and Captain America are two other characters that have become part of Disney fans’ stable of coded characters. Many have said that Elsa’s self-acceptance and “coming out” moment regarding her ice powers relates to kids wrestling with their self-identity and the courage it takes to reveal that truth to family and friends. The song “Let It Go”, as the Guardian states, has been adopted as an anthem for LGBT fans. On the Marvel end of Disney,¬†Captain America‘s close friendship with Bucky Barnes has been seen as having gay overtones by many fans, as well as Cap’s immediately close relationship with the Falcon; in fact, Falcon and Cap’s relationship in the comics inspired one fan to write Marvel, moved by how the two characters expressed emotions that, as the comic panel itself explained away, were emotions that were “left unsaid.”

With the tide turning higher and heavier towards Disney finally making a move and acquiescing to marginalized fans’ concerns and wants, I decided to reach out to the¬†hashtag creators who were helping give renewed hope to fans wanting to see LGBT relationships on screen.¬†Below is my email interview with Jessica Salerno,¬†#GiveCaptainAmericaABoyfriend*, who gives more insight into the creation of the hashtag as well as why it’s so important.

JUST ADD COLOR: Why did you create #GiveCaptainAmericaABoyfriend?

Jessica Salerno: When I¬†created the tag #GiveCaptainAmericaABoyfriend, it was something I¬†definitely wanted to see be translated into the movies because of what it would do for the LGBTQ+ community, and because I¬†myself love the Captain America movies and know many others do too! I¬†had no idea people would actually catch on and help me trend it, but¬†I¬†couldn’t have been happier when they did.

#GiveElsaAGirlfriend has also been making the rounds. What do you think about these two hashtags and the message they represent? In other words, why have the hashtags hit a cord?

Both of these hashtags call for everyone to voice their support for two huge characters in the film industry, on a platform where they can be heard. These tags, once they get trending, show film studios everywhere that people want this representation of the LGBTQ+ community. these tags are both so important because when this many people speak up, they’re going to be heard. Having characters like Elsa and Captain America date the [same]¬†sex would be revolutionary. People want superheroes and princesses to be able to be just like them‚ÄĒto show everyone that you can be a superhero and be bisexual, etc. It normalizes these sexualities and concepts that most of the world still shies away from, and these characters specifically speak out to the youth who view them‚ÄĒteaching them that no matter who they choose to be, they can still be a princess or a hero.

Why do you think Hollywood hasn’t made a prominent, out LGBT superhero or princess?

I think Hollywood hasn’t embraced the idea of a leasing LGBTQ+ character in films like these because they are worried about money. Frankly put, there is a huge amount of homophobia, biphobia, transphobia, etc…worldwide that threaten the net worth of these corporations like Disney. The amount of backlash received from #GiveCaptainAmericaABoyfriend just showed how many people still wrongly deny the LGBTQ+ community. But that’s why Hollywood needs to take these steps to normalize it with the platforms that they have.

How do you think the lack of LGBT characters has affected movie-going audiences?

I think the lack of LGBTQ+ characters in movies has affected the audiences, dwindling the amount of viewers who attend a movie if they know its another movie with an unnecessary heterosexual relationship forced into the mix just to make sure nobody tries shipping the male characters together. People want more representation, and they’re not going to be as willing to see a movie full of heterosexual stuff because that’s what we’ve been seeing for decades and its just not normal or realistic anymore. it hasn’t been for a while, and it needs to be realized.

What message do you hope people take away from your hashtag?

From #GiveCaptainAmericaABoyfriend and from #GiveElsaAGirlfriend I hope people start to realize we can make a difference in the industry through just tweeting support from our phones or computers. I¬†hope people start to realize the lack of LGBTQ+ representation, and I¬†hope they start to support it and this cause. I¬†hope people start to feel hopeful again that change is possible and happening for the LGBTQ+ community and that they see how many people are here to support that. It’s¬†not just those in the community that want this change, and it’s empowering to those in it to see that again. from this tag I¬†really hope people just continue to push for more representation and take a stand, because we can make this happen.

If Captain America was given a boyfriend, who would you choose?

I would love for Captain America’s boyfriend to be his long time friend Bucky Barnes!¬†‚ô¶

*JUST ADD COLOR reached out to¬†Alexis Isabel, the creator of #GiveElsaAGirlfriend. She couldn’t be reached for comment.¬†

Exclusive Interview: #DisabilityTooWhite creator Vilissa Thompson

The hashtag #DisabilityTooWhite went viral recently, and with good reason; even though coverage of issues facing the disabled might be out there, the coverage is too frequently focused solely on how disability issues affect white Americans, not all Americans. I was happy to interview the creator of #DisabilityTooWhite and founder of the site Ramp Your Voice!, Vilissa Thompson, LMSW. In our email interview, we discuss the origins of the hashtag, some of the problems with mainstream coverage of disabiilty issues, and what people should take away from the messages stated in the hashtag. If you want to read more about the lack of diversity in coverage about the issues facing the disabled, read Thompson’s article, “White Privilege & Inspiration Porn.” Like Thompson states in her article, I too had an epiphany while reading this and will work on internalizing all of the complexities surrounding “inspiration porn.”

 

What prompted the hashtag?

It was an article on xoJane that a friend and fellow advocate shared that showcased the standard image of disabled women: white disabled women. ¬†Of course, we need more visibility of disabled women as a whole, but the “face” of this subgroup is typically white. ¬†As a Black disabled woman, that frustrates me because I know how it feels to be invisible in the communities I hold membership to ‚ÄĒ disabled, Black, and female. ¬†I, like so many Black disabled women and other women of color, are frankly tired of that erasure of who we are, especially when it is an issue that gets rarely discussed publicly in our community. ¬†The hashtag was something that came to me instantly when I replied about my annoyance of the lack of diversity and inclusion, especially on platforms that specifically focus on women.

What problems have you seen when it comes to representation of POCs with disabilities?

There is this “excuse” that circulates within the community about not being able to “find” disabled people of color. ¬†To me, that’s a poor excuse to utter, especially with how many disabled people of color advocates utilize social media and speak out on the issues that matters to them as folks who hold multiple memberships. ¬†As I wrote in a recent article, that excuse can no longer be tolerated – you don’t find us because you aren’t looking hard enough TO find us. ¬†We have been here since the start of the Disability Rights Movement, yet if you were to let the history books tell it, disabled people of color were not around. ¬†This has been a continuous issue of erasure in our community, and it’s something many of us, including myself, make known and speak out on unapologetically. It’s 2016 ‚ÄĒ it is beyond time for disabled people of color to be visible in our community in every capacity; from organizations to articles published about the disability experience.

There’s been a lot of needless pushback against the #DisabilityTooWhite. What do you make of the backlash and what lesson do you want the hashtag’s detractors to take away from the hashtag instead?

From what I saw, many of those detractors were trolls ‚ÄĒ they just wanted to infiltrate and derail the conversation that was being held. ¬†With those individuals, I personally ignore them, and continue to get my message across ‚ÄĒ they will not be a distraction to the bigger picture for me as an advocate.

The persons who really need to understand the hashtag are the disabled people, particularly disabled Whites, who felt that the hashtag was an personal attack on who they are as disabled people and/or was “unnecessary.” ¬†One thing I¬†noticed as an advocate of color: the disabled community is very uneducated on experiences that goes beyond disability; meaning that anything that discusses differences outside of disability meets great resistance (we see this on both an individual level and within disability-centered organizations). ¬†That resistance perpetuates the silence and erasure of individuals who hold dual or multiple identities, which in this case, would be disabled people of color and disabled women of color.

Disabled people have to realize that though we are disabled, that doesn’t negate the privileges we have; admitting that we all have privileges isn’t shameful, but the way some of us react when it’s pointed out is problematic. ¬†I am intimately aware of the privileges I hold, and I use them to help those access spaces that they cannot because they don’t have those same privileges as I do. ¬†When disabled people of color vocalize that they endure plights that disabled Whites do not, it is not us creating an “us vs. them” realm; we are simply stating how the world works for us, and in many cases, works against us due to multiple memberships. ¬†The pushback of trying to understand our stories shows a lack of respect for the diversity of the community, and shows disabled people of color that they cannot feel truly comfortable about how they are and the unique struggles they endure if those thoughts will be challenged by those of the majority (in this case, disabled Whites).

Being open-minded to the realities of others that live and look differently from you as a disabled person is the key takeaway Рyes, we may have a disability, but the world interacts with us differently that goes beyond disability status.  Being willing to listen to disabled people of color is so important, and the detractors missed a prime opportunity to do just that.

There are those who have learned a lot from the hashtag and have interacted with you personally to thank you for creating it. What do you think of the hashtag’s positive effect?

The most positive effect of the hashtag was the fact that disabled people of color were able to freely share their truths. ¬†We talk amongst each other or keep it to ourselves ‚ÄĒ we rarely have the opportunity to discuss these matters so publicly. ¬†Being able to share your experiences, the good, bad, and painful, is an empowering moment, especially when you are able to connect with others who have endured similar circumstances. ¬†This public sharing validates who you are and the life you live ‚ÄĒ as disabled people of color, we seek out that validation greatly because of the lack of attention to our lives in the community and the broader society. ¬†Our community and society can no longer feign ignorance to who we are and how the world responses and treats us – that’s a powerful realization when these hashtags are created and gain mass attention.

Having the ability to connect with other disabled people of color on social media and build an incredible network and support group is another positive effect.  Personally, one of my favorite things about being a blogger and advocate is befriending and collaborating with disabled women of color.  The hashtag allowed me to bond closer with the women I already knew, and to meet disabled women of color who understand the world I, and we, live in.

How do you think the media could rectify how they cover disability issues, especially disability issues relating to people of color?

Diversity and inclusion are huge problems in the media, and it’s being resolved at a snail’s pace. ¬†The media perpetuates the “default” face (i.e., white) for disability when they only share stories about White disabled people, as well as write inspiration porn-themed stories about disabled people of color. ¬†Learning how to write about disability that isn’t disrespectful or plays on the “good feels” or pity emotions is so important, no matter the color of the individual being written about. ¬†There are so many disabled people of color who are advocates, and are doing incredible work in their specific areas of interest and in their communities; the failure to highlight us is inexcusable.

With how connected we all are due to the internet and social media, we should not still have this problem with journalism that plays on disability stereotypes and inaccurate understanding about what disability actually is, along with only amplifying the voices and experiences of one subgroup in the community. ¬†The media plays a huge role in how the society reacts, interacts, and understands disability ‚ÄĒ it’s long overdue for the media, in all forms, take this responsibility seriously and depict all of our experiences fairly and respectfully.

What is the ultimate goal you have for #DisabilityTooWhite?

I want the hashtag to shine a light on the issue of race and invisibility in our community and force the issue to be discussed openly and not in private, as it tends to occur. ¬†I hope the disabled people of color who participated, and those who read the tweets shared, truly understand that their voices and experience matters, and to not allow anyone quiet them because they are uncomfortable with what they have to say. ¬†One of my favorite quotes comes from Zora Neale Hurston: ¬†“If you are silent about your pain, they’ll kill you and say you enjoyed it.” ¬†I want every disabled person of color to speak up and speak out about the ableism, racism, discrimination, prejudices, sexism, homophobia, and every other injustice they endure in our community and to do so without worrying about hurting feelings or making others squirm in their seats because the truth is hard to hear.

What we did with the #DisabilityTooWhite hashtag was just that: ¬†there were some who did not want to hear what we had to say, but there were many more who needed to hear it. ¬†The latter group is I hope feel the lasting effects of the hashtag, and learn that they aren’t alone and there’s plenty of work left for us to do as advocates to change the status quo.‚ô¶

The Inside Scoop on #BlackPantherSoLIT + What Marvel Can Learn From It

If you’ve been on the internet and haven’t heard of #BlackPantherSoLIT, then you are clearly doing something wrong. The hashtag went viral once news of Michael B. Jordan and Lupita Nyong’o joining the film adpation of Black Panther¬†spread. As countless articles have already said, the fact that the hashtag went viral two years–two years–before the film hits theaters shows how much of a need there is Marvel (and for film in general) to showcase non-white superheroes. To be even more precise, the hashtag shows how large (and how under-served) the audience is for non-white superheroes and non-white leads in general.

Take a look at moments from the hashtag for yourself:

I reached out to the creator of #BlackPantherSoLIT, @ChadwickandChill, and got their¬†take on the creation of the hashtag and what impact it’s had. Here’s what they had to say in a statement:

I would always chatter with other fans about Chadwick and¬†decided on December 5, 2015 to start a new page. I’ve held dedicated to engaging fans more. Starting this page was not met with the applause I expected from other core fans. I do it first to show lots of love to a cinematic light and¬†talented Black man, Chadwick Boseman, and secondly for the fans. I don’t cheer and¬†swoon for followers and¬†it’s really just to engage the fandom! I’ve started other pages/campaigns as well – , , ¬†– and¬†supported numerous others like . It’s all to unite fans and¬†particularly those of us part of the African Diaspora, to edify work within our own collective versus waiting for an outside group to do so.

The goal is to not only make history with any effort, it’s to retell our own regal history and¬†sustain it so that generations from now everyone will know that we are more than slaves and¬†disenfranchised and¬†we are not animals nor are we uncivilized. We are black, we are full of vitality, we are beautiful, we are supremely intelligent, innovative, creative, alive, well, ¬†human, and¬†thriving! Most¬†importantly, We are kings, queens, regal through and through!

I also asked them two other questions about the hashtag, and here’s how they replied via Twitter:

So far, we’ve got Ryan Coogler writing and directing, Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther, Michael B. Jordan as a possible villain, and Lupita Nyong’o as the love interest. Who else would you like to see join the cast?

Casting wise: I would love Cicely Tyson, James Earl Jones, Denzel [Washington], Taraji [P. Henson],… So many to name.

What other POC Marvel superheroes/superheroines would you like to see brought to the big screen?

As far as another POC comic book hero: I’m not as versed in the comics at this stage today. As I learn, I’m sure I’ll have an opinion on that. Black Panther is stealing the show for me at this moment, it’s too historic for cinema history & Black Regality. I’m in Formation…

There are a couple of lessons Marvel, and Hollywood in general, can take from the popularity of #BlackPantherSoLit:

‚ÄĘ Social media has its pulse on what people want:¬†

As I’ve said on the¬†Sleepy Hollow episode of the Black Girl Nerds podcast, showrunners and show creators should know that their industry is just like any other industry that’s catering to others; your audience is your customer base, and it only makes sense to know what they want. Knowing what the audience wants is too easy nowadays; all you have to do is go on Twitter to see what the latest hashtags are discussing. Everyone’s discussing what they want from television and movies, so for creators of media to ignore that doesn’t make good business sense. Usually, ignoring the audience comes back to bite shows in the butt nowadays. See¬†The 100¬†and, of course, Sleepy Hollow.

‚ÄĘ People of all backgrounds want diversity in their stories, so actually give it to them:

It doesn’t make sense to have white superheroes and white characters in general stand in as the “default” American or the default human being. Entertainment, for me, is at its best when it provides a look at an idealized world that embraces all people. It’s through imagery that we know what is possible, similar to how some use religion to realize what they are actually capable of. If we never see what we could be as a society, we won’t strive for better.

Let’s remember that the biggest factor in the ’60s Civil Rights Movement was the usage of television and newspapers. There was a reason the revolution was televised; it was because without images, it would be easy for people to pretend that inequities didn’t exist. But with the eyes of the world focused on the members of the movement, they were able to hold the narrative in their own hands. The same goes for something as seemingly trivial as a superhero film. The person who holds the power can tell the story, and Hollywood’s been telling the same discriminatory story for decades. It’s time for Hollywood to give many other people the reins to tell their own stories and finally help the industry create the idealized version of America the real America can aspire to become.

‚ÄĘ A black superhero (or a superhero of any other minority) doesn’t cater to a niche audience:

Once again, the idea that white equals “default” is at play with this thinking. How can someone not identify with someone else simply because of their skin color or culture? Hollywood has always been reticent to put a non-white face as its leading hero or heroine because of their tired “money” argument (which will be addressed in the next bullet point).

But the real reason non-white actors aren’t thought of for¬†leading roles is because of a tribalism-rooted fear. When most of the people in Hollywood are of one color (or all straight), they will generally make entertainment that suits them and treat other voices as threats to their tribe and their perceived superiority. The majority will then believe that others won’t identify with the “minority” because¬†they don’t. But Hollywood is out of touch, and it’s only just beginning to wake up to what the rest of the world is becoming, which is multicultural, more accepting, and tired of the “good ‘ol boy” way of doing things.

People want to see their friends, spouses, siblings, and children represented in entertainment, and it’s past time for Hollywood to do this. Black Panther doesn’t just speak to black America in a monolithic way; Black Panther speaks to the family who has adopted a black child and is searching for entertainment that reflects that child. Black Panther speaks to the woman who can finally go to a Marvel film with her black boyfriend or husband and see someone who looks like him as the superhero, not just¬†“the best friend” to the superhero. Black Panther speaks to the son of African immigrants who can finally see portions of pan-African culture in mainstream entertainment.¬†Black Panther speaks to more people than just the stereotyped idea of “black America.”¬†Black Panther speaks to America, period.

‚ÄĘ Practicing celluloid segregation isn’t where the money is:

As The Atlantic writes, Hollywood’s constant excuse for using white actors over non-white actors, that audiences want to see white faces, is a lie.¬†University of North Carolina’s Venkat Kuppuswamy and MgGill University’s Peter Younkin studied data from Hollwyood films and their grosses, and found that more diverse casts generally fared better at the box office. It makes sense: under-served markets are desperate to see themselves on screen and will eagerly support films that showcase reflections of themselves.

Marvel is probably already realizing this in a big way with both the immediate viral success of¬†Black Panther and the backlash against¬†Doctor Strange with #whitewashedOUT. If you want to address more of your audience, show them in films. They’ll practically do the marketing for you, that is¬†if the movie is actually good and is racially and culturally respectful, not just a “diversity” cash grab.

What do you think of #BlackPantherSoLIT? Give your opinions in the comments section below!

Exclusive Interview: #NoIWontJustMoveOn Co-creator Vincent Schilling

Twitter has become the place to get a crash course education on all the stuff not covered on television or in the history books. Hashtags like #whitewashedOUT and #OscarsSoWhite have opened people’s minds up to the discrimination in Hollywood, and one of the latest hashtags on Twitter, #NoIWontJustMoveOn, is opening¬†Twitter denizens up to atrocities leveled against Native Americans, both in the past and today.

Vincent Schilling, author, photojournalist and editor of Indian Country Today Media Network’s Arts and Entertainment section¬†is one of the co-creators of #NoIWontJustMoveOn, and I was excited to converse with him via email interview. In the interview, we discuss the hashtag and its impact, as well as if America will ever come to terms with its horrible past.

Why did you create the hashtag #NoIWontJustMoveOn?

I created it along with my wife Delores¬†who¬†actually said it first, I said, “That would be a great and¬†appropriate¬†hashtag.” We both tweeted it and it just trended.

As I said in my Indian Country Today Media Network article¬†which now has nearly 10,000 likes on¬†Facebook, as a Native American/First Nations man, (Akwesasne Mohawk,) I have¬†been asked on too many occasions why I am still talking about the atrocities¬†that have befallen Native American and First Nations people and told, “Why¬†don’t you just get over it” or “Why don’t you just move on?”¬†Because my history, no matter how far away it seems, still affects me and my¬†fellow indigenous brothers and sisters.

You have written about how the past still affects Native Americans today.¬†For those who don’t know (and still ask the insensitive question of “Why¬†don’t you just get over it?”) what would you say to them?

I would say to them, ‘If a loved one had died in your family and you are¬†explaining how much of an impact they had on your life, in the midst of your¬†tears and sadness, I won’t tell you to just get over it. Even if their death¬†happened 20 years ago.” This is where the confusion, I believe comes in.¬†People believe that Native people are supposed to follow a regimented¬†timeclock in terms of cultural suffering.

The thing so many people do not realize is that we as Native people still genuinely feel the suffering of our ancestors in our DNA. Their pain, their tears of genocide, rape, torture and having children stolen from families is still felt in our blood. Our blood is mixed with the tears of our ancestors they were never cried from their eyes. This is what runs through us. We feel the sadness, the loss, the mourning and we are not just going to get over it because someone tells us to.

I’d like to add, many times people that tell us to get over it cannot¬†stand to feel even a small percentage of our suffering; to fully realize the¬†intrinsic value of our suffering is simply too much for some people to bear.

People tell us to get over it, but you can’t move on from something that is still happening today. Our Native kids are being told they can’t wear sacred cultural items to their high school graduations today. Our Native women are still sexually assaulted at higher rates than any other ethnicity (by non-native offenders) today. They are going missing (#MMIW) today. People still ask me if we exist today. We are fighting Native mascots today.

There are many ways America has tried to erase Native American history, and there are so many ways that erasure is still active today, from Halloween costumes to lack of coverage of missing Native American women and police brutality against Native Americans, to lack of presence in the media, lack of large-scale federal government support/advocacy (aside from Native representatives in Congress), etc. With so much going on, how do you feel all these issues could be best addressed by The Powers That Be (the government, the media, etc.)? 

“The Powers That Be” are no longer the only ones in charge. No matter how¬†hard they try to silence the voices with policy, government regulation of¬†even private interest lawmaking, there is just too much to gain by creating¬†platform to give the public a voice.

“The meek shall inherit the earth” is happening. No longer can a world¬†leader, a corporate entity or even a country can any longer make a move¬†without the massive collective voices on social media coming to the call.¬†News organizations are now reporting on the response to public figures¬†making bad moves on social media as opposed to just reporting on the act¬†itself.

Yes, even institutions of learning are now being held up to the light and are having to answer questions posed by the public. They are finding out about how Christopher Columbus never landed in the upper 48 states Рever Рand how he committed horrible atrocities against Taino people and supplied nine-year-old native girls to his men.

People are learning how Black Indians are one of the most successful societies in history that were targeted and hated by other less successful communities who out of jealousy, burned the Black Indian communities to the ground. People are now unlearning.

#NoIWontJustMoveOn has helped educate many who aren’t aware of these¬†issues.¬†In fact, someone tweeted, “There are things that are being revealed to me in¬†#NoIWontJustMoveOn that I’m learning for the first time ever in my life…”¬†How does it feel to have that kind of an impact?

It feels wonderful and sad. I am glad that people are learning about the tough things faced in Indian Country, but it is a reminder of how desperately the hashtag is needed.

What do you hope people who weren’t aware of these issues do with that¬†knowledge now that they have it?

I hope they realize that everything,¬†and I mean¬†everything,¬†has the right to¬†be questioned. But I’d like to offer them to question things with kindness.¬†I am not suggesting they lay on the floor if someone is kicking them; I just¬†mean to question things in a way that solicit information. As a journalist,¬†I have questioned people I was so horribly furious at it was hard to think¬†straight. They assumed I was going to attack them – but I did not.

What happens in a situation like this is that people are caught off-guard and because they feel as though they are not in the line of fire will offer much more insight into their thought process. This is important to remember. It is not without struggle and I am not perfect as I am more than certain my frustrations have taken a precedent, but for the most part, there is a lot more empowerment when you are coming from a place of being kind as well as constructive.

The advent of the internet has helped many marginalized groups, including¬†Native Americans and Canada’s First Nations, reach people on a global scale¬†in a way they probably couldn’t before. How do you feel social media has¬†helped Native voices get heard? Similarly, how do you think social media has¬†helped the activism community within Native nations?

As I said previously, social media is a massive factor in allowing the Native community as well as all communities across the world, connect in a way that was never possible before. Yes and unequivocally, without any doubt these types of efforts could not have gained the momentum without social media. It has empowered all of us and gives us more and more to look forward to.

One example is when I attended the White House tribal youth Gathering last¬†year when Lady [Michelle] Obama spoke to Native youth who had traveled to DC from all¬†over Turtle Island (Native reference to the US and Canadian continent).¬†All¬†of the reporters – including myself – were positioned at the very back of the¬†room, with limited access to the youth and Michelle Obama. Our coverage was¬†sufficient, but lackluster because we could really only see the backs of¬†kids heads and Lady Obama from a distance.¬†The talk of the town was not anyone’s coverage, but the beautiful coverage¬†and moments on Snapchat, people were watching the Native youth’s personal¬†coverage of lady Obama – not us. Their perspective was the major issue, not¬†a news organization.

Ultimately, what do you hope becomes of #NoIWontJustMoveOn in the long run? What kind of long-term impact do you hope it has?

I hope this hashtag stays going forever. I want people to always realize the devastation faced by Indian Country, but how we are also becoming more and more empowered every day.

What do you hope for America when it comes to addressing the years of abuse¬†Native Americans have faced? Do you think America will ever come to terms¬†with what it’s done to its first people, or do you think that realization¬†(along with the realizations of other horrors leveled against other groups)¬†is just too much for the collective consciousness of America to bear?

No matter how much I would like this sentiment to change, sadly it will always be too much for the collective consciousness of America to bear. That is just human nature. Overprotective moms will always cover the ears of
their children when sometime speaks about something the mom, not necessarily the child, is uncomfortable with. But within this collective, are a plethora of voices and minds that simply had no idea, or were never told. And when
they hear things for the first time are changed forever, those are the ones¬†I am always trying to reach. I sincerely don’t want to waste my energy on¬†those people who only want to argue, but are never willing to change.‚ô¶

Paisley Park Is In Your Heart: Prince and the Power of Individuality

“I‘m finally feeling better,” I told my mom over the phone. I’d just expelled a lot of grief I was experiencing in an hour-long rant to¬†her. At that point in the day‚ÄĒaround 10 to 11 in the morning‚ÄĒmy grief wasn’t anything Prince related. In fact, like everyone else that day, little did I know the rest of my day would be consumed by the news of His Purple Majesty’s passing.

At the time, what I was ranting about was about personal stuff; my¬†Sleepy Hollow post concerning Abbie’s death had become one of the biggest hits, if not¬†the biggest hit, JUST ADD COLOR and my personal writing portfolio had seen. Even Variety‘s¬†Maureen Ryan, a writer I’m a huge fan of, and Kelly Connolly, my¬†Entertainment Weekly Community Blog boss, had read it, having found it organically (I had actually considered sending them the link to the article, but I figured that if they read it, they’d read it, and if not, then whatever.) Ryan even went a step further and highlighted a part of the article she was the most affected by and retweeted the article to her followers. I was flabbergasted and honored that I was now considered worthy to be retweeted by writing elite. That’s when the panic and fear set in.

Now that I had reached another plateau in my online writing career, what did followers expect from me? Would I have to write about¬†every pop culture thing, even if I didn’t particularly care about it? Would I have to give my opinion on everything? And if I did give an opinion, would it be the opinion that would put me on the ever-present “problematic” lists of Twitter and Tumblr denizens? I’d already had my brushes with that before‚ÄĒthose brushes exposed me a lot more to the hypocrisy of social media life than I would have liked to have experienced. How hypocritical was¬†I¬†expected to be? In other words: what kind of “self” was I now allowed to have on Twitter now that more eyes were looking at what I’d have to write?

These thoughts about self-preservation, self-representation, and the inherent fakery of internet culture had consumed me for days, leading me to rant about it to my sister the night before, and then to my mom the next morning after staying in bed for far too long, dreading to start my day and deal with my social media quandaries yet again. After that hour of ranting (so much so that I was putting my mom to sleep by talking so much) and letting off steam in the form of tears, I felt better and said so. “That’s good,” my mom said. “It’s good to get it all out.”

“Yeah,” I said, already feeling lighter and finally looking forward to writing some stuff on¬†Underground and maybe even that pesky article about¬†Ghost in the Shell and¬†Dr. Strange. I got out of bed, remade it, did my morning routine, and started putting some laundry away while talking to my mom about whatever else had been rattling around in my brain.

Then my sister texted me. “Prince is dead!” she exclaimed. Angina, something I’ve never really had an issue with (despite my history of chronic stress and anxiety), flared up so badly I briefly considered if¬†I needed a paramedic myself. As strange as it sounds even to me, the most recent time I’ve felt so directionless was about two years ago, when my uncle‚ÄĒanother person I wrongly assumed would live forever‚ÄĒdied. Instantly, I was trying to figure out if this was a hoax‚ÄĒit¬†had to be a hoax, because Prince doesn’t just¬†die‚ÄĒbut as I switched between my mom and Twitter, I saw that it wasn’t a hoax. It was true. “NOT PRINCE!” I yelled to my empty room and my mom on the other end. “NO! NOT PRINCE!” My mom, on the other hand, was waiting on CNN or MSNBC to confirm it. Once they did, she sounded tired. “I was waiting to see if it was true,” she said. “That’s sad.”

♦♦♦

Like the news junkie I am, I ran to my television in the living room to see what MSNBC was saying. As I watched Brian Williams say what we were all thinking at that moment‚ÄĒthat we were all living what we thought would be a normal, uneventful Thursday only to hear the unthinkable‚ÄĒI started reflecting on things. It’s not unusual for me to think a lot; thinking is what jumpstarts this site every day, after all. But this train of thought, after the shock started subsiding microscopically, began to center around Prince’s way of life. More specifically, how Prince never let anyone define him; he was always in control of himself and his image.

My sister observed that Prince’s iron grip on his image might have been “a little psychotic.” But regardless of what kind of control issues Prince may have had (or probably did have, judging by how rigid he was with¬†how Vanity 6, Sheila E., and Apollonia are all versions of the same dream woman archetype he fostered over the decades) Prince’s control over his outward persona and his introverted personal life is deeply rooted in two of his philosophical mottos:

and

“If you don’t own your masters, your master owns you.”

The former is one of the reasons why Prince became known as the Prince of Shade on social media, and the latter is about his battles with Warner Bros. over owning the rights to his own music.¬†But both also speak to how Prince carried himself and how he practiced the art of disregard for other people’s feelings about how he should live his life.

Prince became a star because of his musical talent, first and foremost. He was a musical prodigy, playing at least 27 instruments, not counting his own honeyed vocal cords. But what launched him into supernova-dom was his ability to be completely unique, particularly during a time in which everyone wanted to be unique.

♦♦♦

The ’80s are¬†best known for its androgyny, the pounds and pounds of makeup women¬†and men would wear, the frantic, desperate desire to be something new and different, something no one’s ever seen before. You had Madonna, The Culture Club’s Boy George, Adam Ant, and even “standard” R&B acts like Shalamar played with beauty and androgyny (something Charlie Murphy hilariously highlighted in his infamous¬†Chappelle‘s¬†Show skit about Prince). All of them, though, have to pay homage to originators of androgyny-in-music, like Little Richard, David Bowie, and even James Brown to a certain extent. And while I’m certain David Bowie, who was steeped in soul¬†music history, did know how his bread was buttered (and often said so), Prince (as it has been said so much over the course of these strange days) was one that relished in the path paved by his musical forefathers and sought to create alchemy with the tools they left behind. He certainly did, giving the world something that was both in line with the era’s play on sex and sexuality and much more than anyone could comprehend. (Indeed, Prince himself actually said so in “I Would Die 4 You”: “I’m not¬†a¬†woman/I’m not a¬†man/I am something you could never understand.”)

From where I’m sitting, Prince’s legendary status wasn’t achieved just because he participated in the ’80s androgyny; it was because he¬†defined what it meant for him and never apologized for it or explained it. Whereas most others were still defining themselves by labels, Prince used none. To use another song, he raps “My name is Prince,” and that is the summation of it all. He is everything you saw and then more, tons more. He wasn’t man or woman, and he wasn’t something we could comprehend. The fact that he was the only one who could understand his own mystery intrigued us and made¬†us want to be in his quirky, fascinating, dreamscape of a world.

In his way, he invited us all to discover our own mysteries. When he sang “Paisley Park is in your heart,” he wanted us to find out what made each of us special and cultivate that, just like he’d figured out how to cultivate his own specialness. Prince, who had been bullied in school¬†and¬†suffered from epilepsy,¬†wanted us to create our own Paisley Parks, our own personal universes that allowed us to be the spectacular selves we want to be. He had figured out the secret, and in order to join in on his fun, you had to be willing to search for the answers to yourselves. You had to build your own personal Paisley Park, a task that’s much easier to sing about than it is to actually do.

I’d say a direct parallel to the ’80s “gimmie more” culture is right now. The ’10s are a time in which we’ve got access to everything and everyone just by using our phones, tablets, or laptops. We are closer than we ever were to celebrities, dignitaries, and presidents alike. You’d think that would satisfy us. But instead, all of this access to each other has only made us more neurotic and more prone to wanting to fit in than ever before.

Article after article after article states how Facebook (and social media in general) has led to a dramatic uptick in depression, all because we’re posturing to each other. Most of what you see on social media isn’t real. Too much of the time, there’s someone¬†lying to you about what they’ve got, who they know, how “woke” they are¬†or¬†how accepting or inclusive they are. If they’re not busy trying to convince you of how much more together they are than you, then they’re busy overloading you with opinions about how to get to where they are in life and why you aren’t there. Why you and your fave “will never.” (“Will never” what,¬†exactly?) Why you should strive to be a #carefreeblackgirl, even if you¬†don’t feel that carefree. Why you shouldn’t express why you don’t feel as magical as the #blackgirlmagic hashtag suggests¬†you should (Dr. Linda Chavers, who wrote in Elle about how her debilitating illness has left her feeling like a shell instead of someone who feels magical and important, received¬†a mountain of clapbacks instead of nurturing support from a community). There are too many people out there busy tearing down others to uplift themselves. Too many times in the social media world, having your own view on the world‚ÄĒwhether that opinion is something the majority agrees with or not‚ÄĒcan be seen as detrimental to your social standing, much less your career.

The “gimmie more” culture has evolved into a shaming culture. Are you feminist enough? Are you queer enough? Are you alternative enough? Are you black enough (and to that end, are you carefree or magical enough)? There’s even a specific uniform for the “alt” person; just go on Tumblr and Twitter and you’ll find that a lot of folks who want to be perceived as “special” all end up looking similar, depending on what brand of “alt” they aspire to. But is wearing a uniform actually being alternative? Is critiquing others for their personal Paisley Parks building up your own?

Prince didn’t tear others down while staying in his own lane. Instead, he worked on his own stuff and released his own personal stamp on life into the world for us to marvel at. What we saw in his music and artistic representation was a manifestation of his own high self-worth. As many have said online, what they loved most about him was his ability to be himself. While most of us are struggling to find peace with our identities, Prince seemed to casually live in it and mine it for inspiration.¬†He was his own inspiration‚ÄĒhow many of¬†us can say that about¬†ourselves?

♦♦♦

I hate that it took Prince’s death for me to realize what was the most grand thing about him, and that he was the teacher of the most important lesson I need to learn in life. I’ve always struggled with just being myself; if you read my Mr. Robot piece, you’ll see that I’ve always had a bout with accepting my own sensitivity. But I’ve had other battles, most of them racially and culturally charged. The more I’ve become a part of the social media and online journalism/blogging spheres, the more I’ve realized how crucially important it is to have a strong sense of self-worth and self-understanding. Not only is it important just in life in general, but it’s comes in so handy when having to deal with strong personalities, a barrage of opinions, and others who are keen on tearing you down¬†just to prove how special they are.

That’s what brings this article full circle; my rant to my mom was based in the fact that I still didn’t know how to grapple with the stress of being in a forum where¬†almost¬†everyone is trying to present their best, most perfect, most special selves. I couldn’t get my mind around how social media perpetuates the act of folks trying to prove their specialness by pointing out where others are “problematic” and never letting them live down whatever mistake they might have made. All I wanted to find was peace and the belief that I could be whatever and whoever I wanted to be without worry from what other people would have to say. I wanted relief from the stress of “fitting in,” a stress that I thought would have left me once I graduated from high school years ago.

Unfortunately, Prince’s death taught me that I have yet to own my masters, because the master‚ÄĒmy fear‚ÄĒwas owning me big time. I learned that I honestly don’t need to worry about what anyone else thinks of me, as long as I have belief and love for myself. If¬†I work on becoming the version of Monique¬†I¬†want to be, then the stress of “fitting in” will go away. I will be me, and everyone else can be them, whether that’s them being their best selves or not. Like Prince,¬†I¬†can find my¬†own Paisley Park and happily live there in my heart. Once I discover that, I’ll be able to attract others to me, others who want to know what¬†my mystery is. That’s a lesson we can all learn.

To quote Janelle Mona√© (who was also one of the people Prince called “friend”), “Categorize me, I defy every label.” Prince challenged us to not just define ourselves, but to defy the labels people put on us and the ones we put on ourselves. He wanted us to challenge others to try to put us in boxes, and he wanted those who tried to categorize to fail. We should try to learn from his example and try to truly accept what makes us unique; if anyone tried to play us, they’d soon learn they were only playing themselves. His name was Prince. My name is Monique. Who are you?

Other articles to check out:
“Whether Or Not Prince Knew It, He Was A Disability Icon To Me” | Black Girl Dangerous
Prince never apologized for who he was. For that, he was an inspiration. | Washington Post

Prince gave black kids permission to be weirdos | Vox

Prince Knew What He Wanted: Sex, Soul and You | The New York Times

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Exclusive Interview: April Reign Discusses the Effect of #OscarsSoWhite

#OscarsSoWhite has been the headlining news topic, and with so many opinions out there about the hashtag and the movement, the one opinion that’s probably the most important to understand is the opinion of the hashtag’s creator herself. April Reign, managing editor of Broadway Black, spoke with JUST ADD COLOR about the creation of #OscarsSoWhite, the Academy’s decision to change the status quo, the fallout surrounding the new Academy rules, and what she hopes people take away from the movement.

What prompted you to make #OscarsSoWhite last year? Did you think it would find the life it has found on Twitter?

Creating the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag happened very organically, in which I was sitting in my family room watching the Oscar nomination announcements. …I was just disappointed in the lack of representation of people of color and marginalized communities, especially in the acting categories but¬†also behind the camera [like] the directors, especially last year with Ava DuVernay for the movie¬†Selma and just overall‚ÄĒdirectors, cinematographers and screenwriters and so forth. I…was venting my frustration at that time. The very first tweet was “#OscarsSoWhite they asked to touch my hair.” It took off, and I had no idea then‚ÄĒand even today‚ÄĒthat it would be as pervasive and as international as it has become. I’m humbled by the support I’ve received and that the hashtag has received. It’s gratifying to see that the voices of so many have made a difference.

Last year, #OscarsSoWhite hit a nerve, but this year, that nerve was hit¬†in an even bigger way. What do you think prompted the scale of the outrage¬†we’ve seen?

I’ve been asked that question a couple of times now and I really don’t know. The only thing that I can think is that perhaps people thought that last year was just a fluke that people of color and marginalized communities weren’t represented, and when it happened this year with the major acting categories, people said, “Oh, maybe this is an issue. Maybe this is a pattern, so let’s take more of a look at the underlying statement that #OscarsSoWhite is trying to make.”

I can say that a couple of days before the nominations were announced in 2016, people were coming to me saying “We’ve seen some of the predictions as to who the nominations are going to recognize, so maybe it’s going to #OscarsSoWhite again.” …And in fact, it definitely experienced a resurgence. While I did several interviews last year and talked about it quite a bit, I definitely did not see the amount of interest I’ve seen this year, not just nationally, but internationally. I’ve done interviews with organizations in New Zealand and Australia and Ireland and London and more BBC organizations than I knew even existed. Those are not interviews I did in 2015.

How has it been to see the reactions, both good and bad, to #OscarsSoWhite?

I’m gratified by the support, and we see that the Academy has made substantial effort to address the issues underlying in the hashtag. With respect to¬†the criticism, I have yet to see any that¬†was well founded. …I can give you the critiques and how they’re unfounded, but none of them¬†really held any water when you shine a light on the underlying issues. I guess because I’m so active on social media, especially on Twitter, you’re readily available for anyone to come at you with memes and criticism of the hashtag, of you, and misunderstanding of what it’s really about. I hope that I’ve handled all of that with grace and really stayed consistent with the underlying issue, which is the lack of inclusion and diversity in film.

From what I’ve seen, you’re handling it great.¬†

Thank you. …There are¬†definitely some recurring themes that sort of¬†come at me, like “You’re making this an all black thing.” No. I’ve always said it’s all people of color, it’s all marginalized communities. It’s not just a race issue, it’s also a gender issue and a sexual orientation issue and an issue for differently-abled communities to be represented.

[Some say], “If you look at the past 15 years, black people have gotten 10¬†percent¬†of the¬†awards even though they’re 12¬†percent¬†of the population, so that’s roughly equal.” Well, that’s fantastic for the last 20 years, but the Oscars have been around for 80. You can’t just cherry-pick¬†the facts to support your narrative. And even if that is true with respect to black people, it’s not true with respect to¬†all¬†people of color. The fact that I’m black doesn’t mean that I’m only advocating for black people. Let’s talk about the number of Hispanic actors and actresses or Latino/Latina actors and actresses, or Asian actors an actresses. This affects everyone and everyone should be included.

If you really run the numbers from 80 years forward, it’s still even taking into account [that] it was 37 years between Sidney Poitier winning the first Oscar for Best Actor as a black man and Denzel [Washington] winning it…and there’s no inbetween. I find it inconceivable that there were no qualifying performances within that 37 year span. Similarly, we’ve had one black actress with Best Actress within the entire span of the Oscars, and that was Halle Berry for¬†Monster’s Ball. You can’t tell me that there haven’t been outstanding performances by black actresses. Even [with nominations], there were films who weren’t nominated that are fantastic, and that’s just with respect to black people. Clearly, there have been no Asian women, no Latina women, who have ever won [Best Actress]; why is that? In 2009, the first woman [Kathyrn Bigelow] wins for Best Director? It’s inconceivable to me that we are here in 2016 and we can rattle off on our fingers, with some to spare, the number of people of color and marginalized communities who have been properly [awarded]¬†for their work.

And also with¬†The Revenant; the film is being celebrated for having a large Native American supporting cast, but none of them are getting nominated for their work; Leonardo DiCaprio–even though it’s great¬†how much he has spoken out on Native American issues on their behalf–is getting nominated, and not a Native member of the supporting cast.

That’s exactly right. …Hollywood is supposed to be a liberal bastion of whatever, and yet there are still some issues. I saw that Matt Damon spoke out…about how there should be more and so and so forth, but we saw how he treated Effie Brown on Project Greenlight. It’s like, but, bruh, that wasn’t even a full year ago! [He]¬†said [on Project Greenlight], and I’m paraphrasing poorly here,¬†something to the effect that diversity takes its point from casting, but not necessarily from who’s behind the camera. That’s what I took from it, anyway. So yeah, we want to have a diverse cast onscreen, but that doesn’t apply to who’s behind the screen, and that’s really the issue because it’s so important that these stories are told, but also¬†who is telling the story. Who is the director? Who is the screenwriter? Who is the producer? What experiences are they bringing to this project and that was borne out this year with¬†Straight Outta Compton. The only thing it was nominated for was Best Original Screenplay, but the screenwriters are white. So that’s an issue as well.

Something you said a while ago goes into one of my questions: Some of the conversations surrounding #OscarsSoWhite have been, unfairly, categorizing it as being  primarily focused on black actors and as a black and white issue. How do you feel about some people keeping the conversation in a binary mode of thought instead of thinking about how Hollywood portrays all minorities?

I think it’s unnecessarily limiting and I think it’s unfortunate that they can’t get out of that box for themselves because I’m not in that box. I know why they’re doing it and I’ve had brought to me¬†“Oh, you’re being a racist.” It’s not racism to speak truth about the lack of existence of roles for people of color. Speaking facts isn’t racism in and of itself. It it is without merit because I have never made this a black/white issue.

It’s not clear to me why people think that is. I don’t know¬†if it’s because I’m black and they can’t see past who I am and understand that I’m multifaceted, or if it’s just easier for them to think in binary terms. But that’s not what #OscarsSoWhite is about at all.¬†Race is just one portion of it; it’s all marginalized communities, and within race, it’s not just black people; it’s definitely about Asian people. It ‘s definitely about Latinos and Latinas and Hispanics. It’s about everyone who should be represented on the screen.

After the nominations came out, Jada Pinkett Smith released a video stating how people of color should consider reinvesting in our own community and celebrating our own. Some believe the Oscars is a lost cause, seeing how it was created to celebrate white actors in particular. Some people also view the Oscars fight as minority voices vying for white validation while not uplifting (or even attending) other awards shows like the NAACP and BET Awards. What do you think of these sentiments and the fight for the Oscars?

I feel very strongly that we should support those award shows and programs that celebrate our individuality and uniqueness. I hope that one of the outcomes of the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag is that more people of color and marginalized communities continue to support and support even more the NAACP Image Awards, the Alma Awards, the BET Awards, the Soul Train Music Awards versus the Grammys [in relation to music] because it’s so very important. Those award shows were borne out of the same frustration that I have; the lack of representation of the so-called “mainstream” awards, so we had to make our own. But I will also say that I think we can multitask. We can celebrate our own and still critique for better or worse the pinnacle in film. Whether you are a fry cook or a corporate CEO, you want to be¬†recognized for your achievements amongst your peers. If the Oscars are considered to be the top of that, why wouldn’t someone, anyone, want to receive that recognition?

We also know that very often, having “Oscar-nominated” or “Oscar winner” after your name, it brings with it¬†some benefits. It may mean¬†that it’s easier for someone to land a role or to even to get into¬†auditions. It may mean you can command a higher salary or get taken more seriously¬†the next time you want to take a chance on a film. So it does matter, and if the other award shows are uplifted to the ¬†extent that they are on the same level of the Oscars, then fantastic. That just gives everyone more opportunity to shine.

The Academy has taken the mobilization of stars and fans seriously and¬†released a statement promising sweeping change to the Academy and how it¬†does business. All of this came about because of the hashtag’s popularity.¬†How do you feel that #OscarsSoWhite has brought about this change?

I’m very encouraged by the announcement that was made by Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs. I appreciate that she spearheaded this issue because I know change is never easy–pushing against the status quo and something that has been in place for over 80 years had to have been difficult. ¬†I was happy to see that the vote by the Board of Governors was unanimous; I think that’s important because it sends a message that they are serious about making changes with respect to diversity and inclusion. We’ll see how the changes are implemented and what type of¬†pushback they’ll receive, but I still think there’s more to be done by the Academy and definitely by Hollywood.

To that point, there have been several stars old and new decrying the lack of diversity and some¬†boycotting or standing with the boycott. Meanwhile, we’ve seen some stand¬†against change (particularly today, with Charlotte Rampling, Michael¬†Caine, Julie Delphy and producer Gerald Molen)¬†and other actors and actresses who have decided to remain anonymous speak out against the hashtag and the Academy’s decision. Do you think this divide¬†is indicative of the state of Hollywood at large? To me, it seems like Hollywood’s facade of liberalism has been taken away.¬†

Yeah, I think that what we know‚ÄĒI think the numbers are from 2012‚ÄĒat that time, that the Academy is 94 percent white, over 75 percent male, and the average age was 63. So even though Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs invited 300 new members to the Academy; that was 300 [versus]¬†6000. Change is hard, so the Academy members who, for example, have not been active in film in the last decade and have now had their votes taken away, of course they’re going to speak out. It’s a change to the life that they’ve known. But I think that when the dust settles, the Academy members was the change for the better.

Although I have been pushing for more diversity with respect to people of color and marginalized communities, this is also a benefit to the white people in the industry because it gives them more of an opportunity to interact with‚ÄĒand act and direct and produce with‚ÄĒpeople of color and those marginalized communities that they might not have¬†had the opportunity to do otherwise. So I think everybody can win from this, and if it spurs more seasoned Academy members to get back involved in film so they can regain their ability to vote, then all the better, because there’s a reason why they’re already in the Academy. At some point, they were Oscar-nominated or Oscar winners, which means they’ve put out quality work. If they’ve been resting on their laurels for 30 years and come back into the Academy, even better.

The Academy gave themselves a deadline of 2020 for their changes to bear fruit; What kind of Hollywood would you like to see by then?

I hope to see a Hollywood that’s more diverse and inclusive than it is now. I think there’s no shortage of talented people of color and marginalized communities out there. I am hopeful that the Academy will proactively seek out these creatives, these artists, and welcome them with open arms because there are stories that need to be told. I think it’s important ¬†and hope that that the Academy, in increasing its diversity, pressures Hollywood to do the same because the Academy can only nominate films that are made. So¬†it’s fantastic if the Academy becomes more diverse.¬†But if Hollywood¬†isn’t doing the same and is only making the same homogeneous movies year after year and aren’t being thoughtful about who can play these roles or who should tell the stories behind the camera, then still, when it’s nomination time, we won’t see any difference even if he Academy wants to see more films that are representative of everyone in society.

That goes into my next question : What are your hopes for the Academy? The Academy’s statement gives the¬†sentiment of the Academy wanting to lead from in front, not from behind; do you think the Academy¬†can change the industry from the front?

I think they can. I think the Academy is large enough that they can exert significant influence over Hollywood, but it really comes down to the studio heads being willing to consider groups that don’t necessarily look like them and don’t have shared experiences when determining which films they’re going to greenlight. That’s really the issue, that those perspectives must be shared. I’m hoping that there will be a significant push from the Academy to Hollywood to make these stories a priority.

There are those out there who still have their head in the sand when it¬†comes to acknowledging the racism of the Oscars and the Hollywood¬†industry. What¬†message do you have for those who still don’t see a¬†problem with the Oscar nomination process and Hollywood in general?

…I strongly believe that nominations should be made based on merit, but what we know, at least before the announcement, is that Academy members are not required to watch the films before they vote. If that is the case, then one can not say that the nominations or the winners are based on merit. If the argument is that only the best people should get nominated, I agree. But how are we ensuring that the best people are even being seen? I encourage everyone to dive into the rules of the Academy¬†because they’re on their website and [see] how decisions are actually made….For the first vote, you have to vote within your category, so directors only vote for directors and screenwriters only vote for screenwriters. We have one female in the director category period. We have one Asian man [Ang Lee] in the directors portion of the Academy period. Why is that? You¬†can’t say there haven’t been qualified people, but if that’s all we see, and based on the numbers, it’s overwhelmingly older white men who aren’t viewing the films before they vote, then how can we say the votes are based on merit and how can we ensure that the best films are being seen?

…I think it’s imperative¬†that you challenge yourself and see a movie that you might not normally see…Let’s just talk about when you get nominated…once you get to the second vote, everyone can vote for everything. You’ve got to watch all five films. If you’re voting for Best Actress, you’ve got to watch all five films and make your choice. You can’t base it on that a friend of yours told you it was a good film, or you really like their ad in Variety so you’re voting for them, or you feel like someone’s just due for an Oscar because they were snubbed in the past, so let’s vote for them now. That’s what happens. Or, you recognize the name of the person, and since you don’t know any of the other names, you just go with whom you know, and, to my knowledge, that’s what happens, because if you’re not watching the other films, then on what are you basing your vote? It has to be that. It has to be some personal reason as opposed to something unbiased based on the quality of the work. Therefore, it’s not based on merit, and that’s [the point]¬†I’m trying to get back to. Make sure that diverse and inclusive films are being made,¬†look at those, nominate those for the first round, and after that, go see all five within the category and choose which one you think is the best. That makes sense to me and I don’t know why anyone wouldn’t agree to that.¬†[The votes] should always be merit-based, but make sure the net is cast wide enough so all the films that are¬†great in that particular year get a shot at a nomination.