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Oscar Spotlight Draws Attention to Industry Diversity Issue

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In this March 2, 2014 file photo, Lupita Nyong’o accepts the award for best actress in a supporting role for "12 Years a Slave" during the Oscars in Los Angeles. Nyong’o dazzled Hollywood and the Oscar-viewing public through awards season last year. The Mexican-born, Kenyan-raised actress was a central part last year to an Academy Awards flush with faces uncommon to the Oscar podium. There was Ellen DeGeneres, a proud lesbian, hosting. There was the first Latino, Alfonso Cuaron, winning best director. There was the black filmmaker Steve McQueen hopping for joy after his “12 Years a Slave” won best picture. (Photo by John Shearer/Invision/AP, File)

In this March 2, 2014 file photo, Lupita Nyong’’o accepts the award for best actress in a supporting role for “12 Years a Slave” during the Oscars in Los Angeles.  (John Shearer/Invision/AP, File)

JAKE COYLE, AP Film Writer

NEW YORK (AP) — It was a year ago that Lupita Nyong’o, shortly before winning the Academy Award for best supporting actress in “12 Years a Slave,” gave a speech about what she called “dark beauty.”

Nyong’o, who so dazzled Hollywood and the Oscar-viewing public through awards season, spoke tenderly of receiving a letter from a girl who had been about to lighten her skin before Nyong’o’s success, she said, “saved me.” The letter struck Nyong’o because she recognized herself in that girl: “I remember a time when I too felt unbeautiful. I put on the TV and only saw pale skin.”

The Mexican-born, Kenyan-raised actress was a central part last year to an Academy Awards flush with faces uncommon to the Oscar podium.

What a difference a year makes.

This year’s Oscars repeat a stubborn pattern that has plagued the Academy Awards throughout its history: Whenever change seems to come, a frustrating hangover follows. “Every 10 years, we have the same conversation,” Spike Lee, a regular witness to the sporadic progress, has said.

Seldom have such fits and starts been starker than this Oscars, coming a year after a richly diverse Oscar crop. In Sunday’s Academy Awards, all 20 acting nominees are white, a result that prompted some to declare that they would boycott this year’s ceremony.

The lack of nominations for “Selma” director Ava DuVernay and star David Oyelowo were a particular flashpoint, viewed by many as unjust oversights not only because they merited honoring, but because their absences furthered an ignoble Oscar history.

“I was surprised but then I wasn’t,” said Darnell Hunt, a UCLA professor and director of the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies, who co-authored a 2014 diversity report on the film and TV industries. “What we saw in terms of the nominations this year was business as usual. What we got was more or less an accurate reflection of the way the industry is structured and the way the academy is populated.”

An Associated Press survey of the academy’s voting history since the first Academy Awards in 1929 shows gradual progress but not nearly at a rate to match the ever-increasing diversity of the American public. In those 87 years, 15 black actors have won Oscars, four Latinos and three Asians, a record that doesn’t even speak to other categories like best director, where only one woman (Kathryn Bigelow) has won.

The number of non-whites to be nominated for best actor or best actress has nearly doubled in just the last two decades, but the 9.4 percent of non-white acting nominees over the academy’s history is about four times less than the percentage of the non-white population.

Not all of this can be laid at the film academy’s feet, but some of it can. The 6,000-plus membership of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences was found to be 94 percent white and 77 percent male in a 2012 Los Angeles Times investigation.

Since becoming president of the academy, Cheryl Boone Isaacs has worked to diversify the organization’s ranks, though change comes slowly considering membership is for life.

But the academy is a reflection of the film industry; it can only reward the films that get made. What this year’s all-white acting nominees did was lay bare the enormous, hulking iceberg of the movie business’ diversity problems.

The UCLA diversity report released last year after eight years of research put found underrepresentation of minorities and women throughout film and TV, from board rooms to talent agencies.

“White males have dominated things for so long that it’s been hard to image an alternative that would produce or be open to producing the types of projects that are likely to enlist more people of color or women. So it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, this vicious cycle that produces the same type of stuff over and over again,” says Hunt.

What’s particularly galling for many of those working to change Hollywood is that minorities are among its most passionate customers.

“They acknowledge the demographic. They understand our participation rate. They continue to market these projects to the community, but never with the community’s identity or building a base of A-lister talent,” says Felix Sanchez, president of the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts.

Hunt hopes that by studying diversity objectively, the data will reveal “the bottlenecks” that are stifling advancement. That includes findings that show more diverse projects make more money at the box office and earn better TV ratings. He knows the one thing Hollywood will respond to: the bottom line.

But frustration is mounting. Another year’s worth of research, to be released later this month by UCLA, shows no significant change, says Hunt.

Stacy L. Smith, founder and director of USC Annenberg’s Media, Diversity and Social Change Initiative, calls the lack of progress in the industry “egregious.”

“Hollywood does not think diversity is commercial,” Smith said. “The numbers speak loudly and clearly about who is valued and who isn’t.”

With studies finding so little progress, Smith proposes the industry adopt a modified version of the NFL’s Rooney Rule, which stipulates that teams must interview minorities for vacant coaching jobs.

Not everyone agrees. “Enforced ‘diversity’ will undermine the very mission of (the academy),” wrote Lionel Chetwynd, an Oscar-nominated writer and an academy member. “As new filmmakers and craftspeople achieve new levels of excellence, the face of the academy will change as it should, to the meter of its time, the pace of its art.”

Why does all this matter? It isn’t just an issue of equal opportunity, though it is that. It’s because when people aren’t reflected in culture, when they don’t see themselves on screens, behind cameras or on the Oscar stage, they feel invisible and voiceless. Hollywood would do well to remember that young girl who wrote to Nyong’o, and hope to inspire a flood of such letters.

___

AP researcher Jennifer Farrar contributed to this report.

___

Follow AP Film Writer Jake Coyle on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/jakecoyleAP

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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