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Cheryl Boone Isaacs (AMPAS president)

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I believe we all distinctly remember #OscarsSoWhite. And while 2014 and 2015 wer terrible years in terms of the Academy’s overall image, behind the scenes the group, likely at the charge of Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) president Cheryl Boone Isaacs, was working to address the diversity issue.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, in 2015, they extended invitations to 322 making a concentrated effort to involve more people of color and women. In 2016, they more than doubled the number with 683 invitations. And this year, they sent out 774.

The Academy boasts that this year they invitees include people from 7 different countries, is 39 percent female and 30 percent people of color.

And among the number are a group of Black women many of us have been watching on the screen or unknowingly admiring their work behind it.

Check out the invitees on the following pages.

Zoe Kravitz Black

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Zoë Kravitz

With roles in Mad Max Fury Road, Divergent, After Earth and most memorable for me Dope, this young lady with a bloodline steeped in Hollywood has several decades to show off her talent.

Maya Rudolph

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Maya Rudolph

It’s nice to see the Academy giving this look not only to a Black woman but also someone whose work is almost exclusively comedic. While I’ve seen Rudolph do more serious pieces, we know her for the funny. Comedy, likely the hardest thing to do well in entertainment, gets the short end of the stick when it comes to recognition. Hopefully, Rudolph will be able to use her voice to change this.

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Debbie Allen

You know inclusion is an issue when Debbie Allen, who’s had and is still having one of thee most illustrious, multi-faceted and meaningful careers in the industry, is just now getting the recognition she deserves. A pitiful shame. I don’t have to run down the list of her accomplishments, we all know she can do, has done and is still doing it all. 

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Phylicia Rashad

Another legend in the game, who has appeared in television, on Broadway, and behind the camera, as a producer, in some culturally relevant and game-changing pieces of art.

Janelle Monae

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Janelle Monae

I guess this is an instance of favor ain’t fair. Janelle Monae is certainly a new and emerging voice in the film industry. But the girl was smart, she picked the perfect projects to debut her acting talents, including the film that won Best Picture for 2016 Moonlight and Hidden Figures. 

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Ruth Negga

Ruth can tick off quite a few boxes on the diversity checklist. She’s Black, she’s a woman and she was born in Ethiopia. (There goes one of those 7 countries.) Not only that, her portrayal of Mildred Loving got people talking.

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Naomie Harris

While there was a lot of buzz around her last year for her portrayal in Moonlight, Naomie is not new to this. I first noticed her talent when she memorably played Winnie Madikizela-Mandela in Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, alongside Idris Elba back in 2013. Also, Harris is from the UK, so there’s another point for her.

Credit: Apega/WENN.com

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Wanda Sykes

Happy to see another Black woman comedian on the list. Y’all know what Wanda’s done. Mad voiceovers, including one in Rio, which I love. She was Jane Fonda’s hilarious assistant in Monster in Law, which I also love, she’s Daphne on “black-ish” and her comedy specials which are often Emmy-nominated. While she has 7 noms under her belt, the one she did win comes from writing on “The Chris Rock Show.”

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Leslie Jones

Aside from the online harassment, who’s having a better year than Leslie Jones? Blessings keep falling in her lap. And after grinding for decades, at 49, she more than deserves these looks.

Kimberly Hardin

You may not recognize the name but Kimberly Hardin is the woman who has cast films like 2 Fast 2 Furious, Hustle & Flow, Cadillac Records, Black Snake Moan, which was such a good story, Next Friday, Think Like A Man and more. The woman is no joke.

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