david oyelowo
*The lack of diversity in Hollywood has struck a nerve with David Oyelowo, who expressed his thoughts on the issue while honoring Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences president Cheryl Boone Isaacs.

Boone Isaacs, who released a statement Monday announcing “drastic steps” to reform the Academy’s lack of diversity in its membership, was honored with an award named after civil rights activist Rosa Parks at a Martin Luther King Legacy Awards and Benefit Gala that night, Vulture reports. As he presented the award to Boone Isaacs, Oyelowo went off-script to put the Academy on blast for not making progress on diversity while pointing out how it represents a poor representation of Boone Isaacs, himself and the country as a whole.

“This institution doesn’t reflect its president and it doesn’t reflect this room,” Oyelowo stated. “I am an Academy member and it doesn’t reflect me, and it doesn’t reflect this nation.”

Oyelowo’s comments are the latest in a series of reactions regarding the absence of actors of color being nominated in the major acting categories at this year’s Oscars. The absence marks the second straight year entertainers of color were not recognized with an Oscar nomination.

Among those snubbed last year was Oyelowo, who didn’t receive any love from the Academy for his critically- acclaimed performance in the movie “Selma.” That situation prompted Isaacs to meet with Oyelowo in private “to talk about what went wrong then.” During that time, Oyelowo expected things to get better, but instead finds himself experiencing déjà vu with an all-white field of Oscar nominees this year.

“We had a deep and meaningful [conversation]. For 20 opportunities to celebrate actors of color, actresses of color, to be missed last year is one thing; for that to happen again this year is unforgivable,” said Oyelowo, who referenced the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to illustrate how quickly fast systemic racism can be fixed. Still, the actor, like Boone Isaacs, acknowledged that change has been embarrassingly slow.

“The Academy is an institution in which they all say radical and timely change cannot happen quickly,” Oyelowo expressed as he encouraged the crowd at the gala to pray for Boone Isaacs. It better happen quickly. The law of this country can change in a matter of months. It better come on. The Oscars is on February 28. Cheryl needs us to pray that, by that date, change is going to come.”

david oyelowo (cheryl boone isaacs)

Scroll below to read Oyelowo’s full speech, via The Hollywood Reporter:

“The Academy has a problem. It’s a problem that needs to be solved.

A year ago, I did a film called Selma, and after the Academy Awards, Cheryl invited me to her office to talk about what went wrong then,” he said. “We had a deep and meaningful [conversation]. For 20 opportunities to celebrate actors of color, actresses of color, to be missed last year is one thing; for that to happen again this year is unforgivable.

A year ago, I did a film called Selma, and after the Academy Awards, Cheryl invited me to her office to talk about what went wrong then,” he said. “We had a deep and meaningful [conversation]. For 20 opportunities to celebrate actors of color, actresses of color, to be missed last year is one thing; for that to happen again this year is unforgivable.

This institution doesn’t reflect its president and it doesn’t reflect this room. I am an Academy member and it doesn’t reflect me, and it doesn’t reflect this nation.
We have a situation whereby currently the biggest movie in the world and of all time [Star Wars: The Force Awakens] is led by a black man. That film was knocked off the top spot this weekend by a film led by two black men, Ride Along 2. The biggest TV show on the planet is led by black people, Empire.

There was a photograph up here earlier, and it’s a photograph of Lyndon Johnson giving a pen that was used to sign the Voting Rights Act to Dr. King. The year before that photograph was taken, the Civil Rights Act was passed. It was started as an idea by JFK; LBJ used the sentiment at the loss of JFK’s life to bring about the Civil Rights Act being passed. When Dr. King said we need the Voting Rights Act to be passed, LBJ said it’s too soon, it can’t be done. People were losing their lives. People weren’t allowed to vote. Dr. King said [we cannot] wait. What was done was done not in years but months. The march from Selma to Montgomery, those marches began in January of 1965, and by March of ’65 the world was aware what was going on in Selma. By August of that year, the Voting Rights Act was passed.

The Academy is an institution in which they all say radical and timely change cannot happen quickly. It better happen quickly. The law of this country can change in a matter of months. It better come on. The Oscars is on February 28. Cheryl needs us to pray that by that date, change is going to come. We need to pray for Cheryl, we need to support Cheryl, we need to love Cheryl. We cannot afford to get bitter, we cannot afford to get negative. But we must make our voice heard.”