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Jackson Urges Churches to Protest Oscars

Demonstrations: Minister asks heads of congregations in other cities to march on ABC affiliates to protest the lack of African American nominees.

March 24, 1996|GREG BRAXTON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Rev. Jesse Jackson on Saturday appealed to national and local ministers to mobilize their congregations to gather at ABC network affiliates Monday in a protest against the near absence of black Academy Award nominees.

At a community meeting at Holman United Methodist Church in Los Angeles that at times took on the fervor of a revival meeting, Jackson told church leaders and others that he wanted "buses of people" to show up at KABC Channel 7 at 4 p.m. Monday for a demonstration planned to last through the three-hour ceremony broadcast.

Jackson said he had talked to ministers in 25 major cities, such as New York, San Francisco and Chicago, and they had agreed to tell their congregations to march on ABC affiliates in those cities.

The ABC network is airing the Oscars ceremony that is being held at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in downtown Los Angeles.

Jackson said the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences would make rainbow-colored ribbons available at the ceremony if attendees wish to show solidarity with Jackson, his Rainbow Coalition and the growing number of community groups and members of entertainment guilds that are supporting the cause.

Academy officials and ABC executives could not be reached for comment. But academy executive director Bruce Davis has denied that the nomination process was discriminatory.

Jackson said that Quincy Jones, the producer of the show, had told him that he would wear the ribbon on Oscar night. Jackson said he chose not to demonstrate at the Music Center because he didn't want to put pressure on Jones and host Whoopi Goldberg, who are both African American.

The protests are being billed as a launching pad in a campaign to combat what Jackson and his Rainbow Coalition say is "race exclusion and cultural violence" within the motion picture industry. The civil rights leader said Hollywood continues to resist employing people of color in influential decision-making positions and hides behind the terms of "creativity and artistic license" to resist diversity.

"Hollywood does well projecting, but it doesn't do so well reflecting" upon itself when it comes to diversity, said Jackson, who repeated his vow to help organize boycotts of studios and movies that refuse to give more opportunities to ethnic groups.

John Mack, president of the Los Angeles Urban League, said: "The message we want to send out to the moguls of Hollywood is that we are serious about this agenda. We have waited far too long for those in Hollywood to do the right thing. We are very proud of Quincy and Whoopi, but they need some company."

However, at least one prominent entertainer publicly has blasted Jackson and his campaign.

Actress and talk show host Oprah Winfrey, who is scheduled to interview celebrities during the broadcast, said Jackson's efforts were ill-timed, particularly with the involvement of Jones and Goldberg.

Winfrey noted that there would be several ethnic performers and presenters at the awards ceremony.

"When I heard Jesse was asking people to boycott the Oscars, I got on the phone to Quincy, and believe me, he was furious and so was I," Winfrey told an interviewer Friday. "Particularly because this isn't the year, if ever you were going to do it."

Filmmaker Diane Houston, whose "Tuesday Morning Ride" is a nominee for best live action short film, is the only African American among the 166 Oscar nominees.

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