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#OscarsSoWhite creator April Reign is attending this year's Oscars

Photo: Larry French (Getty Images)

The road to this year’s Oscars has been long and nutty, with one insane decision followed by a dozen more controversies. Remember the Best Popular Film category? Remember the whole Kevin Hart hosting fiasco? Or when the Academy decided it didn’t give a fuck about editors and cinematographers before swiftly changing its mind days later? It’s been a trip! So much so that it may be easy to forget how groundbreaking this year’s nominees actually are, and how much progress has been made over the last few years.

On Sunday night we’ll get to see Spike Lee’s name and film announced in the Best Director and Picture categories for the very first time. We’ll get to watch a telecast where the Black Panther cast is not only the best-dressed in the room, but also gets to celebrate their Best Picture nomination. It’s safe to assume that both of those things would never have happened if not for April Reign.

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Back in 2015, Reign tweeted a single hashtag in response to that year’s all-white acting nominees, and soon #OscarsSoWhite turned into a major movement. That led to then-Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs launching an initiative to increase the number of diverse members and setting new rules to phase out old ones (i.e. all the old white dudes who hadn’t actually worked on projects in years). Now Reign will get to see the results of her work in person. The activist confirmed on Twitter on Tuesday that she’s attending this year’s Oscars ceremony.

“After creating the hashtag and working for almost five years to turn it into a movement that not only changed the Academy but made its way into so many other industries, I feel immense pride and a sense of coming full circle, back to the where it all began,” Reign told The Hollywood Reporter of her invite to the ceremony.

Just because the slightly less white, less male, and less old Academy has decided to nominate some films from diverse filmmakers and diverse actors over the past few years doesn’t mean all is corrected. There’s still plenty of work to be done, within the Academy and within the larger system of Hollywood itself. For Reign, #OscarsSoWhite is also about creating opportunities for all marginalized people in the industry, “regardless of gender identity, sexual orientation, race and ethnicity, age, or disability, to have opportunities they didn’t before.”

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Oliver Whitney

Oliver Whitney is a film critic and culture writer living in Brooklyn.