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Calendar Goes to the Oscars

Jackson Still Upset With Hollywood

Movies: 'We said it a year ago and we say it today: Hollywood must do a better job in reflecting the cultural diversity of society,' he says.

March 25, 1997|GREG BRAXTON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Rev. Jesse Jackson did not stage a repeat performance of last year's protest against the Academy Awards. But he was still there in spirit.

Jackson, who last year organized nationwide protests to complain about the almost total absence of black and minority Oscar nominees, was conspicuously absent from Hollywood on Monday.

But he still registered his dissatisfaction with this year's ceremony, saying that the entertainment industry's doors remain largely closed.

In a conference call Monday from Chicago, Jackson said he was pleased with the nominations of Cuba Gooding Jr. for best supporting actor, who went on to win the honor, and Marianne Jean-Baptiste for best supporting actress, as well as two Asian American and Latino American nominees.

But Jackson said there has been only "moderate progress" in Hollywood since last year.

"There is an opportunity deficit, not a talent deficit," Jackson said. "We said it a year ago and we say it today: Hollywood must do a better job in reflecting the cultural diversity of society. Until then, every Oscar night is a celebration in excluding people of color from fair share, equal opportunity and access, a slap in the face to the American dream of a 'one big tent' society."

A number of entertainment unions and community advocacy groups joined forces with the civil rights leader last year in what Jackson proclaimed was the first step in the fight against what he called institutional racism in the entertainment industry. But the campaign received mixed reviews inside and outside Hollywood, with some accusing Jackson of bad timing, particularly since the event was produced by Quincy Jones and hosted by Whoopi Goldberg.

Although his protest last year seemed to lose momentum following the Oscars, Jackson said he had been concentrating his energy on fighting the anti-affirmative-action initiative Proposition 209, which he said would have denied young minority students access to filmmaking classes in the University of California system and other state institutions.

He termed his protest against Hollywood "a long-term struggle, not a short one, and we will definitely continue."

Jackson said that he had also met with CBS Entertainment President Leslie Moonves, and that "a productive dialogue" has resulted that he hopes will extend to other networks and studios.

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