Last Updated on March 8, 2016 by Andre Loftis

[vc_row full_width=”” parallax=”” parallax_image=””][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]“Unless you choose to do great things with it, it makes no difference how much you are rewarded, or how much power you have.”

–Oprah Winfrey

[/vc_column_text][vc_separator color=”custom” align=”align_center” accent_color=”#c1a864″][vc_column_text]Late one afternoon a father took his young son to walk the beach at sunset. As they strolled along the shore occasionally nesting their toes in the sand, the little boy suddenly became agitated and distressed. “Daddy,” he cried out pointing in the direction of the horizon. “The sun is falling into the ocean,” he exclaimed in fear.

The father scooped the boy up into his arms and in a soothing tone said, “Oh no, son. Don’t worry. The sun’s not falling into the ocean, its setting,” he chuckled and continued.  “Every evening,” he explained, “The sun sets but it rises again every morning.” The son, secured in the safety of his father’s arms was comforted by his dad’s wisdom.

The boy experienced what he perceived to be real—the sun falling into the ocean; the father corrected that misunderstanding with a different reality—the sun setting. However, in coming years the young boy would grow and learn in science class one day, a new and different reality—the sun does not fall into the ocean and neither does it set and rise as his father promised. The boy learned what is real and true–the sun is stationary, it is the earth that spins and circles around it giving the illusion of a falling or setting sun based on the observers understanding and perspective.[/vc_column_text][vc_separator color=”custom” align=”align_center” style=”” border_width=”” el_width=”” accent_color=”#c1a864″][vc_column_text]Understanding and perspective were very much required in recent weeks as the world remained fixated on the saga of African Americans in Hollywood; about the fact black artists were shut out of the Academy Awards’ nominations; and as a result many believed, robbed of an opportunity to have their egos stroked with international recognition of their work. The industry’s slight begged the question—what is the true measure of success?

Possibly, the artist Ice Cube summed it up best when he was asked about the lack of black representation among this year’s Academy Award nominees.

“I’m not pissed. I’m not surprised,” he said and continued. “It’s the Oscars, they do what they do.” He added, “The people loved the movie [Straight Outta Compton], the people supported the movie. It was number one at the box office, over $200 million worldwide. I can’t be mad, you know.” In 2015, four of the top 25 grossing films had a minority in the leading role.

African Americans and other minorities do not have to be victims relative to this issue. Money talks—according to a Washington Post report, although minorities in total only represent 37 percent of the U.S. population they bought 46 percent of the $1.2 billion movie tickets sold last year. Based on this data it is apparent minorities have enough economic power to force a change in the industry.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is almost exclusively made up of older white people—on average they are 63 years old, 94 percent white and 76 percent men—the Oscars are often a reflection of this.

Recently, the Academy has made efforts to improve the ethnic balance of its membership. Last year, it added 322 new members that included a number of high-profile black actors and directors (inactive members are periodically purged to make room for new representatives). It also announced a new diversity initiative that targets women and minorities—certainly not enough, but definitely a move in the right direction.[/vc_column_text][vc_video link=”http://www.hulu.com/watch/911097″][vc_column_text]No one can argue against the racial bias still prevalent in Hollywood. In contrast, many of America’s wealthiest blacks made their fortunes in the entertainment industry—despite this bias.

One of the most prescient, controversial and rhetorical questions posed by Chris Rock during his monologue this year was, “Why are we protesting? Why this Oscars? Why this Oscars, you know? It’s the 88th Academy Awards. It’s the 88th Academy Awards, which means this whole no-black-nominees thing has happened at least 71 other times. OK?”

Rock then proceeded to answer his own rhetorical question, “Why? Because we had real things to protest at the time, you know? We had real things to protest. You know, we’re [were] too busy being raped and lynched to care about who won best cinematographer.”

If Rock is correct and this is the reason for this year’s protest, African Americans in Hollywood sorely missed the mark. There are critical issues impacting the African American community today that blacks in Hollywood can protest against. Issues many believe are much more deserving of the artists’ ability to influence others during this controversial period.

African American entertainers have a voice—a powerful voice. This year’s Academy Awards season presented them with a commanding opportunity to leverage their stardom—after all, each of them by the very nature of their existence has a vested interest in broader, more life altering issues facing the black community—and yet, far too many in the industry remain silent.

Black Americans applaud those entertainers who have found their voices on issues of importance to the black community; and yet, the community continues to clamor for the Paul Robeson’s, Lena Horne’s, Langston Hughes’, Ossie Davis’s, Ruby Dees’, Harry Belanfonte’s, Diahann Carroll’s of this generation—those willing to forego self-aggrandizement and risk it all for the sake of righteousness. This year too many black actors and actresses missed an opportunity to broaden the conversation.[/vc_column_text][vc_text_separator title=”THE ENVELOPE PLEASE” title_align=”separator_align_center” align=”align_center” color=”custom” accent_color=”#c1a864″][vc_column_text]Detroit, Michigan is the blackest city in America—83 percent of its population is African American. In June, 2014, a severe water crisis in this financially bankrupt city resulted in United Nations intervention when blacks in the community were denied access to the primary source of life—water. At the peak of the crisis, 3,000 households a week were added to the list of those whose water was shut off—most owed less than $150 or were two months behind paying their bills.

The situation in Detroit was unprecedented and untenable—black babies, black grandmothers and grandfathers, the sick and shut-in all suffered.

When the United Nations intervened it said “Detroit’s low-income and African-American populations have been disproportionally impacted. Such situations go against internationally recognized human rights standards.”

If you think, well that happened way back in 2014, think again. According to a February report in the Detroit News, ”In the past fiscal year, water was disconnected to at least 26,500 of 200,000 residential accounts and restored to about 20,800. The shutoffs, which were continuing at a rate of about 3,500 per month this fall, have been suspended for winter because of the cold.[/vc_column_text][vc_text_separator title=”THE ENVELOPE PLEASE” title_align=”separator_align_center” align=”align_center” color=”custom” accent_color=”#c1a864″][vc_column_text]The same spring (2014) that African Americans fought for water in Detroit, the first concerns surfaced regarding Michigan’s plan to switch the city of Flint’s water source from Lake Huron to to the toxic Flint River—a tragedy that has reached epic portions today.

57 percent of Flint’s population is African American. The damage caused by insanely high levels of lead now in the city’s water supply is considered criminal by many. The number of children under the age of six who may have suffered irreversible damage to their developing brains and nervous systems is conservatively estimated to be nearly 8,000.

The ultimate impact lead poisoning will have in the long run on the rest of the city’s population may not be known for years to come. What is known, however, is the majority of those that continue to be impacted by this toxic sludge is black.[/vc_column_text][vc_text_separator title=”THE ENVELOPE PLEASE” title_align=”separator_align_center” align=”align_center” color=”custom” style=”” border_width=”” el_width=”” accent_color=”#c1a864″][vc_column_text]Less than a month after this year’s Academy Award nominations were announced and before the black-boycotted ceremony was held—the newly elected Democratic Governor of Louisiana made a startling announcement. Louisiana’s population is nearly 33 percent African American.

On February 11, Governor John Bel Edwards, told the citizens of Louisiana the state’s economy was on the verge of collapse. He simultaneously revealed a bitter truth—the state will probably be forced to close schools, including colleges and universities in addition to hospitals; the state may also be forced to discontinue hospice care as well as late stage dialysis treatment. All of this could be disastrous for the black community as African Americans in Louisiana suffer from end stage renal disease at a rate that is three times higher than whites. In addition, Louisiana has one of the highest cancer mortality rates in the nation.[/vc_column_text][vc_text_separator title=”THE ENVELOPE PLEASE” title_align=”separator_align_center” align=”align_center” color=”custom” style=”” border_width=”” el_width=”” accent_color=”#c1a864″][vc_column_text]Un-armed black men were seven times more likely to be shot and killed by police in 2015 than any other group. Not only were there 24 fatal police shootings, an additional 28 un-armed black men were killed by police in other ways, i.e., hit by police car, tased to death, etc. while in police custody.[/vc_column_text][vc_separator color=”custom” align=”align_center” accent_color=”#c1a864″][vc_column_text]This week, after the phrase “the envelope please” was repeated dozens of times; after black members of the entertainment industry boycotted the ceremony; after numerous electronic media reports, blogs, tweets, snap chats and traditional broadcast media spent untold hours on the issue of discrimination in Hollywood, issues perceived as more impacting to the viability of the black community continue to fester.

Yes, there is racism in Hollywood, but like the young boy who panicked because he believed the sun was falling into the ocean, the recent hoopla over this issue offered a distorted perspective relative to a number of life and death issues facing black America today.

Each of the issues highlighted here are like the father’s patient explanation to his son regarding what is really going on, i.e. Detroit is the real issue; Flint is the real issue; Louisiana is the real issue; police killings of unarmed black men and women is the real issue; and the list of priorities goes on and on. These are real priorities—not whether or not a black artist gets to take home a statue to validate their artistic brilliance in the eyes of America and the world—they are powerful enough to stand in their own light.

When you consider these critical issues and others currently pressing down upon African Americans as a single organic, pulsating blight you realize the nation is stuck; spinning in a pre-determined cycle; drawn into orbit around institutionalized racism not unlike how the earth is draw into its orbit around the sun—America seems unable to free itself from this orbit.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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S.E. Williams

Stephanie Williams is executive editor of the IE Voice and Black Voice News. A longtime champion for civil rights and social justice in all its forms, she is also an advocate for government transparency and committed to ferreting out and exposing government corruption. Over the years Stephanie has reported for other publications in the inland region and Los Angeles and received awards from the California News Publishers Association for her investigative reporting and Ethnic Media Services for her weekly column, Keeping it Real. She also served as a Health Journalism Fellow with the USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism. Contact Stephanie with tips, comments. or concerns at myopinion@ievoice.com.