Six years ago, Eric Garner — a 43-year-old Black man — died after being placed in a chokehold by an NYPD officer. His final words: “I can’t breathe.”
At the time, David Oyelowo was promoting his role as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in “Selma”, the Ava DuVernay-directed film about the slain civil rights icon’s famed marches from Selma, Alabama to to state capitol of Montgomery.
In a “Screen Talks” Q&A that also included actors Noel Clarke and Andrea Riseborough, Oyelowo revealed that he and his fellow cast members decided to address Garner’s death by wearing “I Can’t Breathe” t-shirts to the film’s premiere.
That move, he said, earned the film a rebuke from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
“I remember at the premiere of ‘Selma’ us wearing ‘I Can’t Breathe’ t-shirts in protest. Members of the Academy called in to the studio and our producers saying, ‘How dare they do that? Why are they stirring s**t?’ and ‘We are not going to vote for that film because we do not think it is their place to be doing that,'” he explained.
“It’s part of why that film didn’t get everything that people think it should’ve got and it birthed #OscarsSoWhite,” Oyelowo added. “They used their privilege to deny a film on the basis of what they valued in the world.”
The film’s director confirmed that Oyelowo’s recollection was a “true story.”
True story. https://t.co/l7j8EUg3cC
— Ava DuVernay (@ava) June 5, 2020
Now, the Academy has responded to DuVernay and Oyelowo’s claims on Twitter calling their earlier actions “unacceptable”.
— The Academy (@TheAcademy) June 5, 2020
The organization previously tweeted about their commitment to “do [their] part” following the death of George Floyd.
— The Academy (@TheAcademy) May 31, 2020
The entire conversation can be seen in the video below.