In the days leading up tonight’s Golden Globe Awards, reporting from the Los Angeles Times has brought attention to the lack of diversity within the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, the organization that doles out the trophies. Among the 87 current members of the HFPA, which ostensibly represents the full international media covering film, including many countries with large Black populations, there is not a single Black member.
That lack of diversity–along with questions of corruption within the HFPA’s nomination process–has been brought up particularly in regards to the absence of any Black-led film from this year’s best picture nominations.
During their show-opening performance, hosts Amy Poehler and Tina Fey acknowledged the diversity issue with jokes. “The Hollywood Foreign Press Association is made up of around 90 international, no-Black journalists who attend movie junkets each year in search of a better life,” Fey remarked at one point.
She added, “The point is, even with stupid things, inclusivity is important. And there are no Black members of the Hollywood Foreign Press. I realize, HFPA, maybe you guys didn’t get the memo because your workplace is the back booth of a French McDonald’s. But, you’ve got to change that.”
Shortly after–following the night’s first technical issue, which found best supporting actor winner Daniel Kaluuya’s audio briefly cut out entirely–three members of the HFPA leadership came out to address the matter more seriously. The organization’s president Ali Sar, vice president Helen Hoehne, and past president Meher Tatna came out to address the audience.
“We recognize we have our own work to do,” Hoehne said. “Just like in film and television, Black representation is vital. We must have Black journalists in our organization.”
Sar added, “That means creating an environment where a diverse membership is the norm, not the exception.”
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Before the Sunday night telecast, the Hollywood organization #TimesUp released a statement on social media claiming “a cosmetic fix isn’t enough” to address the problem.
Ava DuVernay, who had been invited to act as a presenter at the awards, told Variety that awards play a role in the Hollywood ecosystem–and can contribute to decisions about who gets to make movies and who does not.
“The truth that’s not often discussed is that awards play a part in the economic reality of Black filmmakers, artists of color and women creators in this business,” the filmmaker said. “Unfortunately, those shiny things matter to those who finance, greenlight, produce, distribute, and market our projects. Therefore, everyone must have balanced access and consideration so that the playing field can be more equitable for artists of all kinds, colors, and cultures.”
In response, the HFPA issued a statement saying, “we are fully committed to ensuring our membership is reflective of the communities around the world who love film, TV, and the artists inspiring and educating them. We understand that we need to bring in Black members as well as members from other underrepresented backgrounds, and we will immediately work to implement an action plan to achieve these goals as soon as possible.”
Back in 2013, L.A.-based journalist Samantha Ofole-Prince, a Black British writer who writes about the entertainment industry for U.K., African, and Caribbean outlets applied for membership, but did not receive enough votes from existing members to be admitted.
While HFPA officials said her membership bid failed due to an incomplete application process, it surfaced questions about race–and particularly how, at that time, the then-84-member body had just two journalists representing all of Africa, both of whom were white South Africans.
“Racism is pretty rampant in sections of the HFPA, particularly among the older members,” a source identified as “an insider” told The Wrap at the time.
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