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#Oscars(Not?)SoWhite: The State of Black Hollywood

Record-Setting Year For Black Actors/Films Nominated for the 2017 Academy Awards


Setting a new record this year, the Academy Awards announced the nomination of six black actors with diverse films such as Moonlight, Fences and Hidden Figures in the running for best picture. The nominations may, at least partially, be in response to protests in recent years that the Oscars routinely snub black talent, sparking the hashtag, #OscarsSoWhite.

Stephane Dunn, Morehouse College

“I want to know whether it’s a moment, or a real transformation of Hollywood,” said Stephane Dunn, an associate professor and director of the Cinema, Television and Emerging Media Studies program (CTEMS) at Morehouse College. “These are really great films. In another year, several of them would be all but ignored.”

Dunn will join Natalie Bullock Brown, a professor of film and broadcast media at Saint Augustine’s University, and Mark Anthony Neal, a professor of African and African American Studies at Duke, for a talk, “#OscarsBlackAF?: The State of Black Hollywood.”

The event, free and open to the public, will be a live taping of Neal’s weekly webcast, Left of Black. It will be held at 6:30 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 9, in the Ahmadieh Family Conference Hall (Room 240) at the John Hope Franklin Center (2204 Erwin Road).

Dunn said she has a love/hate relationship with the Oscars which will be televised on Feb. 26.

Natalie Bullock Brown, Saint Augustine’s University

“I have never watched [the Academy Awards] from beginning to end because it’s been such a white space,” Dunn said. “If this is truly a transformative moment, how do we support and sustain so that nominations of talented black actors and great black films become normal and not an anomaly?”

“I’m honestly very excited to see all the blackness and I think absolutely very single nomination is deserved,” Bullock Brown said. “When I saw Fences and Moonlight, I thought, if they don’t get nominated, I don’t even know what to say.”

Bullock Brown remains skeptical that the online hashtag protests and criticism by the Rev. Al Sharpton about the lack of diversity in Hollywood had any effect on the record setting nominations this year.

“I don’t think Hollywood is paying us one bit of attention. I don’t think they care about a hashtag,” she said. Yet, she added, Hollywood likes to see itself as very progressive.

“I wonder whether these types of nominations would have happened in the numbers that they did this year if it weren’t for the fact of our new administration. Trump has made white people a lot more conscious of some of their choices,” Bullock Brown said. “I refuse to believe that suddenly our work is of a caliber that deserves recognition.”