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After the Oscars, Diversity Remains a Topic of Discussion

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Common, left, and John Legend pose in the press room with the award for best original song in a feature film for “Glory” from “Selma” at the Oscars on Sunday, Feb. 22, 2015, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)

Common, left, and John Legend pose in the press room with the award for best original song in a feature film for “Glory” from “Selma” at the Oscars on Sunday, Feb. 22, 2015, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)

DAVID BAUDER, AP Television Writer

NEW YORK (AP) — What was missing from the Academy Awards turned out to be the issue that could not be ignored on the night trophies were handed out.

The lack of non-white contenders for major acting awards this year became a focus on the day Oscar nominations were announced. Hollywood’s commitment to reflecting the nation’s diversity, and its sensitivity to how these issues are perceived, could not be missed on Sunday’s show — from the opening joke on.

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BEST AND WHITEST

Host Neil Patrick Harris put it right on the table. “Tonight, we honor Hollywood’s best and whitest — excuse me, brightest,” he said.

It drew a knowing laugh, and no small amount of parsing.

Was Harris tweaking Hollywood for an embarrassing shortcoming? Or was he making fun of the people who have raised it as an issue of concern?

Obviously, the Oscars are an entertainment program and hosts are expected to make jokes, said Eric Haywood, a writer on Fox’s hit drama “Empire.” Yet jokes can also make people feel that their concerns are not being taken seriously, he said.

“As it stands, the joke is likely to be reduced to a meme, which the Academy is in no way obligated to address and can easily dismiss,” said Robert Jones, a Brooklyn writer and creator of the social justice blog, Son of Baldwin. “It is, after all, just a joke, right?”

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“SELMA” STAR

Another knowing line from Harris came when he praised actor David Oyelowo, who played Martin Luther King Jr. in the movie “Selma” but was passed over for an acting nomination. Harris asked Oyelowo to stand and the audience applauded.

“Oh, sure,” Harris said. “Now you like him.”

Oyelowo was arguably involved in the emotional high point of the show. The movie’s anthem, “Glory,” by Common and John Legend, won the Oscar for best song shortly after the two musicians performed it. A camera cut to Oyelowo as the song was being sung and his face was stained with tears.

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BOYCOTT

Haywood saw references to Oscar moments on Twitter Sunday night but had no personal knowledge of them. He wasn’t watching. Being in the entertainment business, he usually tunes in. This year, he participated in a boycott of the Oscars ceremony by some black viewers that was organized through the Twitter hashtag #OscarsSoWhite.

That hashtag appears to have been started by a friend of Haywood’s, Washington lawyer April Reign, according to Twitter, and was the gathering place for a steady stream of commentary on Hollywood’s lack of diversity.

There have been some 140,000 mentions of the hashtag since the day nominations were announced, according to Topsy. The number of mentions peaked that day and the hashtag became popular again Sunday night.

The Sunday night audience of 36.6 million people was down 16 percent from the 43.7 million viewers who watched in 2014, the Nielsen company said. Nielsen had no immediate breakdown of Oscar viewership by ethnicity.

Haywood said he was glad the issue was brought to the fore.

“Change comes very slowly,” he said. “I don’t expect any sort of radical change to the status quo from one year to the next. My hopes are not too high for anything to happen too quickly. By the same token, it doesn’t hurt for people to raise their voices.”

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NON-NOMINATED MINORITIES

To some viewers, the Academy Awards made it a specific point to emphasize diversity during the show, from Harris noting Oyelowo in the audience to making Oprah Winfrey a joke target.

Nowhere was the effort more evident than in the awards presenters, who included Terrence Howard, Kerry Washington, Viola Davis, Winfrey, Oyelowo, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Idris Elba, Kevin Hart, Eddie Murphy, Lupita Nyong’o, Zoe Saldana and Octavia Spencer.

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ARQUETTE BACKLASH

Meryl Streep stood and cheered when Patricia Arquette, in her acceptance speech for best supporting actress award, made a ringing declaration in favor of equal rights and pay for women.

Her elaboration backstage, however, struck some who heard about it as pitting groups against each other.

“It’s time for all the women in America and all the men that love women, and all the gay people, and all the people of color that we’ve fought for to fight for us now,” Arquette said backstage, leading some critics to wonder if her call for wage equality was for white women only.

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LOCK BOX

Harris’ assignment of actress Octavia Spencer to watch the “lock box” of his Oscars prediction struck some people online as demeaning: Even as a joke, assigning a black woman to the task, supervised by two white actors, may have been tone deaf. A spokeswoman for Spencer did not immediately return a request for comment on Monday.

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PENN AND INARRITU

The line, coming from one of Hollywood’s most prominent liberals, seemed shocking.

“Who gave this son of a bitch his green card,” actor Sean Penn said, announcing the win for “Birdman” as best picture, directed by Mexican-born Alejandro Inarritu.

A slur? No, Inarritu said backstage that he and Penn are friends and the reference to the document that confers residency status to immigrants was an example of the rough sense of humor they share. “I found it hilarious,” he said.

All’s good, said Penn’s publicist, Mara Buxbaum, on Monday.

“As Inarritu said, they are indeed great friends,” she said. “Sean Penn is currently in Haiti with President Clinton. He is not available for an interview.”

____

Lynn Elber and Sandra Cohen in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Black History

COMMENTARY: New Las Vegas Raiders President is Female, Black, AND Asian

We have never been comfortable with mixed-race kids and what to call them. But since 2010, the multiracial population has grown from 9 million to 33.8 million people, a 276% increase according to the 2020 Census.

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Sandra Douglass Morgan is the new president of the Las Vegas Raiders. Twitter photo.
Sandra Douglass Morgan is the new president of the Las Vegas Raiders. Twitter photo.

By Emil Guillermo

I confess to being a Raiders fan from a very early age.

Even though I was born and raised in San Francisco, as a young boy I cheered Clem Daniels at Frank Youell Field. Old School. Then Daryl Lamonica. Then Kenny Stabler. Warren Wells. Gene Upshaw. Hewritt Dixon. George Atkinson. George Blanda. I loved them all. When they left Oakland the first time, they broke my heart. When they came back, I bought season tickets and broke my bank. And then they left again and broke my heart for good.

I started rooting for the 49ers. I know, blasphemy.

But I always keep an eye on the Las Vegas Raiders. And on July 7, 2022, when they announced a new president, I took a double take.

She looked like a Filipina. To me, she clearly had some Asian blood.

But then they announced her, Sandra Douglas Morgan, and all the stories had some variation of this line: “Morgan becomes the first Black woman in NFL history to ascend to the title of team president.”

Almost every story I found heralded her Blackness. Hooray.

Only it was partially true. From what I found, only NBC News with California homeboy Lester Holt had the story with all the facts.

Morgan was Black. But as my Asian radar suggested, she was also Asian. Not Filipino, but Korean. NBC showed a picture of her mother.

We’ve been here before.

When something great happens to a mixed-race person, why do we ignore the mix?

The Raiders in Las Vegas are trying so hard to be modern and “progressive” (for the NFL). You’ll recall the team gave Colin Kaepernick a tryout.

So why doesn’t a forward-thinking team in Las Vegas, one of the most diverse cities in the nation, just come out and announce that Morgan is both Black and Asian?

Is it because we don’t want to see the Asian parts? Is it the wrong suit in a game where Black trumps?

As I’ve said, we’ve been here before. Kamala Harris is from the East Bay. Her Black father was mostly absent from her life, and her mother, an Asian-Indian UC cancer researcher, was dominant in her upbringing. Still, Harris publicly identified as Black most of her life.

Through her time as a politico in San Francisco, to her rise as attorney general for the state, to her announcement in Oakland seeking the nomination for president, Harris was always Black first. I always noticed. And wrote about it in the Asian American media.

When did things change? When she was selected as the vice-presidential running mate of Joe Biden. And then, of course, when they won and were inaugurated.

How many times did you see the phrase, “First African American, first Asian American, first woman to be vice president of the United States.”

It was American diversity history. Reporters stumbled over how to get it right.

And now, because human nature is what it is, most people have stumbled back to convention. Kamala? Oh, she’s Black.

But it’s not just Kamala. Tiger Woods has always had this problem. When he came on the scene with his first Masters victory in 1997, stories hailed him as the “Black man in a green jacket,” or “the Black man in a white man’s game.”

The column I wrote, published later in my book “Amok,” pointed out calling Tiger “Black” is once again, just half right. His mom is from Thailand. Tiger described his mix as “Cablanasian.” That made people smile but never stuck.

And now as he slumps back from missing the cut at the British Open, Tiger is back to Black.

Why is this all important? There’s accuracy of course, but it shows we have never been comfortable with mixed-race kids and what to call them. But since 2010, the multiracial population has grown from 9 million to 33.8 million people, a 276% increase according to the 2020 Census.

I know mixed-race kids. I made a few of them. I prefer they say they are Asian because they are. But their mom is white. But that doesn’t show. They get passed over and face both subtle and not so subtle discrimination all the time.

The Jewish faith offers a guide. It believes that what defines you passes by way of your mother. Hence Kamala, Tiger, and yes Saundra Douglas Morgan would be Asian.

But in America, the Census uses a “you are what you say you are” basis. Is it just easier to say Black and leave it at that? And ignore Asian? Maybe until someone points it out.

Here’s a vote for being accurate and fair. When Saundra Douglas Morgan made history, we all should honor our diverse America where we can be Black and Asian and anything else. Proudly.

Especially when we make history together.

Emil Guillermo is a veteran journalist and commentator. His work is on www.amok.com

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Advice

A Wedding and Evening Sail on the Matthew Turner

This mock wedding shows “how sometimes we are so caught up in the celebration, and full of elation that we don’t make sure this partnership will contribute to our elevation,” said Gregory. The event heightened “the awareness of the right-Ship, relation-Ship, and friend-Ships so you won’t be emotionally Ship-wrecked and can sail together to your destination of purpose.”

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By Godfrey Lee

Sharika Gregory hosted an evening program on July 9, 2022, encouraging adults to develop healthy relationships. The program took place on the tall ship Matthew Turner owned and operated by Call of the Sea, the nonprofit that also contributed to the cost of the event.

Sailing on the ship becomes an analogy of how a husband and wife can make a marriage work. The captain and his first mate on a ship are like a husband and his wife in a marriage, Gregory said.

The single man and woman need to know if they are the best fit for each other before they get married. The couple will also need to know how a marriage works, like how the captain, his mate, (and the crew) need to know how the ship works in order to safely sail it. The married couple needs to trust each other, like the captain and the mate need to trust each other in order to sail their ship.

Top: Sharika Gregory, Neferttiti and Bronchè (Photo by Sierre Salin); Neferttiti and Bronchè arguing; Kee-Beez, Sierre Salin, Diamond, Chase Banks, Aleta Toure, Chris Ragland. Oshalla Diana Marcus, Johnetta Newton, Trevor Palacio, Raul Cedeno III. Bottom: The Matthew Turner ship (From modelshipworld.com).

Top: Sharika Gregory, Neferttiti and Bronchè (Photo by Sierre Salin); Neferttiti and Bronchè arguing; Kee-Beez, Sierre Salin, Diamond, Chase Banks, Aleta Toure, Chris Ragland. Oshalla Diana Marcus, Johnetta Newton, Trevor Palacio, Raul Cedeno III. Bottom: The Matthew Turner ship (From modelshipworld.com.

The event started in front of the Bay Model Visitor Center with a mock wedding between Nefertiti and Bronchè Steward, where Bronchè suddenly realized that he needs to be committed to his wife. The second half of the program began on the ship with Nefertiti and Bronchè arguing, and Nefertiti runs away to the front of the ship.

This mock wedding shows “how sometimes we are so caught up in the celebration, and full of elation that we don’t make sure this partnership will contribute to our elevation,” said Gregory. The event heightened “the awareness of the right-Ship, relation-Ship, and friend-Ships so you won’t be emotionally Ship-wrecked and can sail together to your destination of purpose.”

Around 40 people attended and enjoyed the event, which offered food and drinks donated by the Strawberry Village Safeway. The ship sailed to the middle of the Bay with its engines and then the crew hauled up two of the sails. But there was not enough wind to sail the ship.

The Matthew Turner, a brigantine, is a tall ship owned and operated by the Call of the Seas. She will be used to help the crew on her sister ship, the Seaward, teach sailing and marine environmental programs to adults and middle school-aged youth. The Matthew Turner was designed after the ship Galilee, which was built in the late 1800s by the ship designer and builder Matthew Turner. The length of her deck is 100 feet long, and has a total of 7,200 square feet of sails. She is docked at the Bay Model Visitor Center’s Pier in Sausalito.

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Bay Area

County Fair Sees Over 25 Percent Jump in Revenues Compared to Last Year Pre-Pandemic

The fair wasn’t entirely back to “normal” in that competitions usually held in the exhibit hall were done remotely, which meant no food was judged, but hobbies, crafts, creative writing and art were all judged and given ribbons.

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The Marin County Fair Sees Over 25 Percent Jump in Revenues Compared to Last Year Pre-Pandemic
The Marin County Fair Sees Over 25 Percent Jump in Revenues Compared to Last Year Pre-Pandemic

By Bay City News

The results are in: People in Marin County were ready to have fun at the fair after taking a two-year hiatus due to COVID-19. Revenues for this year’s Marin County Fair increased by over 25% over 2019’s numbers, according to the county.

The fair, which ran from Thursday, June 30 through Monday, July 4, generated nearly $1.9 million compared to 2019’s numbers of $1.5 million.

This year’s theme was “So Happy Together,” with live performances from Pablo Cruise, Sheila E., Sons of Champlin, and Digable Planets.

The fair wasn’t entirely back to “normal” in that competitions usually held in the exhibit hall were done remotely, which meant no food was judged, but hobbies, crafts, creative writing and art were all judged and given ribbons.

It wouldn’t be a county fair without amateur entertainment, and the county noted that four drag queens, 18 folklorico dancers, 22 ukulele players and 34 bagpipers performed on the community stage.

Proof of COVID-19 and masking were not required. If the event shows an increase in infections, the numbers could show up in Marin’s case data, which is released every Tuesday and Friday. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has rated Marin County as “high” for community COVID-19 levels, according to a June 30 report.

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Photos courtesy of Ella Baker Center, photography by Brooke Anderson
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