I was politicized when in high school in Santa Monica. I went to march in Sacramento for better education. I remember as a kid being to close to the stage, so close I saw the sweat and passion of the speakers. Then I saw him. Jessie Jackson took the mic and eloquently spoke and got us all reved up to go back to our school and make improvements. When the great Cesar Chavez passed on, several of us piled into a bus and rode up to his funeral march to pay our respects. Those times forver shaped my social and political leanings. I will always side with the poor, downcast and the invisible. Sometimes the clear road ahead reminds you of the pioneers that first opened these trails. The sacrifices they made; livelihoods, families and in some case their lives.
To boycott is to sacrifice, plain and simple. From King to Chavez, the indigenous to Black Lives Matter, we have a rich history of protest and boycotting that has brought about not only economic and social change but more importantly the one's validation of their humanity and self respect.
When it come to my old profession as an actor in Hollywood, I've seen and been part of movements to get more people of color on the big and small screens since the 90s. We've come a long way in some regards, but when it comes to the gran daddy of them all, the Academy Awards, we are invisible. Why so? The numbers don't lie. In Dennis Romero's stirring LA WEEKLY article, How Hollywood Keeps Minorities Out, I was shocked by some of these statistics.
With several African american actors and directors of note boycotting the upcoming Oscars, where in all the acting categories not one person of color is nominated, other stars chimes in on the industry's deplorable inequality.
Ok reality check for a minute. Are there more important issues of day facing poor and people of color? Yes. Isn't this a huge exercise in ego stroking? Absolutely. So whats the big deal? Well all I can tell you as an actor who has played a soldier, journalist and guard commander I have also played a drug lord twice, a funny illegal, an Aztec blood thirsty shaman and a gang banger. This is considered a good balance of having to play stereotypes to pay the bills and actually garnering roles of merit. And though proud and grateful of my work, I did not get years of private acting lesson and college training to play stereotypes my whole life. I, like so many artists fell in love with entertaining. I loved performing at a very young age for my Mother on so many nights. I dreamt big that one day I would win an award for playing the leading man that takes down evil foes and saves the world. Well as I got older harsh realities of traditional casting practices in my high school told me that I did not belong and would never get the roles I dreamt and desired. The system told me this and I bought it. Later when professionally auditioning I would have to do so with an affected accent and a bandana handy. Hardly the stuff my dreams were made of. I make my peace with it and like I said have had a decent run. So this boycott of the Oscars is of great importance to me. I want actors, directors, writers and producers of colors to claim their pride as artists and demand more from this beloved industry that the entire world looks to for entertainment and hope. We all can do better. Boycott this year's Oscars. See you on down the road.