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HOLLYWOOD BLACKOUT: A YEAR LATER
CUBA GOODING JR.'S HIGH-VOLUME Victory speech after winning the Best Supporting Actor Oscar rang like a collective cheer from all African-Americans working in Hollywood and set the tone for an event marked by celebrations of black entertainers. Though Britain's Marianne Jean-Baptiste, the only other black nominee this year, did not win as Supporting Actress, clips from her Secrets & Lies performance were seen by millions of viewers. Another high point was a heavyweight ovation for Muhammad Ali and George Foreman, who took the stage after When We Were Kings, the documentary about their 1974 fight in Zaire, won an Oscar.
It was a difference in volume and visibility—if not significantly in numbers—from last year, when a PEOPLE cover story turned up only a single African-American nominee, spurring a Jesse Jackson-led protest of the Oscars. The Oscar for Gooding, only the third black (after Lou Gossett Jr. and Denzel Washington) ever to take home a Supporting Actor statue, "says that Hollywood is not afraid to give us the opportunities we need," commented actress Jada Pinkett after the show.
Such attention makes a difference. Short-film director Dianne Houston, the sole black among 166 nominees last year, has since signed to develop a feature script. But behind the scenes, Hollywood remains overwhelmingly white. Trade unions for set decorators, sound editors and costume designers, each less than 5 percent black, report little or no change from last year. Some say November's passage of California's Proposition 209, designed to end government affirmative-action programs, signifies a setback. Says Shirley Moore, founder of the Alliance of Black Entertainment Technicians: "The studios, directors and producers have got to figure out a way to be conscious of this problem every day."
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