The recent appointment of Jeanelle English as the executive vice president, Impact and Inclusion, at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which was recently announced by Academy CEO Bill Kramer, appears to be another move in the right direction as it relates to diversity and inclusion at the Academy.
English, who has been working for the Academy for the last two years overseeing sustainability, representation, inclusion, and accessibility efforts, will report directly to Kramer, who took over as CEO on July 1. In this newly created position, English will be leading all of the Academy initiatives to address underrepresentation and empower diverse artists in the film industry. Additionally, she will also oversee the Academy Gold talent development programs.
This is fantastic news and again, a step in the right direction, and although I can’t prove it, I believe none of these actions would have happened without Jan. 15, 2015, tweet sent by activist April Reign, which read, “#OscarsSoWhite they asked to touch my hair” and the faster than a blink of an eye response that made the hashtag became viral with Black and Brown creative community members along with social activists using the powerful tweet to protest Hollywood’s longstanding racism.
If you trace the tweet’s impact backward, there has been a consistent effort to bring equality, across the board, to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts. I’ve witnessed it firsthand and I am a supporter of the initiatives and the organization. It’s on record that as its new membership classes increase, year by year, those changes also help make the Hollywood elite re-think their decisions on the macro level.
But, here’s the sad truth – collectively, people of color can never rest. We must always keep a firm hand on diversity and inclusion issues because once the hand’s off the proverbial throttle, so to speak, things can reverse, negatively, and then the entire issue begins again.
So Ms. English’s new role as exec VP, Impact and Inclusion, at the Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences, becomes a larger marker and I believe, deep inside her soul, she understands the responsibilities and opportunities on her proverbial plate are much bigger than a job.
“Over the last two years, Jeanell has been an invaluable part of our evolving Academy team,” Kramer said in a statement. “Her commitment to diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion has driven progress across Academy departments, as have her contributions to creating a more sustainable and accessible institution.
“The Academy is deeply dedicated to elevating emerging and underrepresented voices across the film industry, and in this new role, Jeanell will bring her expertise and vision to this important work as well.”
To quote the late James Baldwin, “Hope is invented every day,” and for filmmakers of color, Ms. English’s appointment does just that – offers a new level of hope at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences that the good work will continue and that positive and lasting change will be woven into the very DNA of the organization.
That’s my hope, at the very least.