The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the group behind the Oscars, calls itself “committed to progress” after Selma director Ava DuVernay and star David Oyelowo say they were admonished for wearing “I can’t breathe” T-shirts outside the 2014 film’s premiere after-party to protest the death of Eric Garner.
Oyelowo, who played Martin Luther King Jr. in the historical drama, spoke about the current fight for racial equality during a Screen Talks Q&A and revealed that the cast’s public protest over the death of Garner, a black man who was put in a chokehold by a white New York City police officer, affected its awards season journey.
“Six years ago, Selma coincided with Eric Garner being murdered,” Oyelowo said. “That was the last time we were in a place of ‘I can’t breathe,’” which were Garner’s final words and then the final words of George Floyd while he was in police custody in Minneapolis, six years later.
“I remember at the premiere of Selma, us wearing ‘I can’t breathe’ T-shirts in protest,” he continued. “Members of the Academy called in to the studio and our producers saying, ‘How dare they do that? Why are they stirring s***?’ and ‘We are not going to vote for that film because we do not think it is their place to be doing that.’”
The outfit change came after the cast walked the red carpet at the now-closed Ziegfeld Theater in New York City. Before entering the New York Public Library for the after-party, DuVernay and some of her cast members, including Oyelowo, Lorraine Toussaint, Tessa Thompson and Wendell Pierce, donned the shirts and posed on the iconic staircase while raising their arms in the air. (Oprah Winfrey, who also appeared in the film, did not take part.)
Oyelowo said the photo is “part of why that film didn’t get everything that people think it should’ve got” as far as awards accolades, “and it birthed [the hashtag] #OscarsSoWhite.” “They used their privilege to deny a film on the basis of what they valued in the world.”
This article was originally posted on yahoo.com/entertainment/.