Tuesday, April 20, 2021
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Mike Mpofu

Leo is right about climate change

Leonardo Di Caprio has finally done it – he won his first Oscar.

While I maintain that he didn’t deserve it for The Revenant (yes, I said it), he is a brilliant actor. His work speaks for itself.

The Oscars is probably one of the most powerful platforms, not only in the film and entertainment industry, but the world over.

High level leading actors, musicians, producers, writers, business people, and politicians take time to be there.

Di Caprio knew this when accepting his award, and he took the opportunity to preach some hard truths.

Apart from thanking the key figures in his life, Di Caprio ended on the very serious note of climate change – something a lot of us choose to live in denial of.

I am not here to repeat many of the facts you already know, but indulge me for a moment.

Di Caprio mentions that The Revenant was all about man’s relationship with the environment and that the film crew had to go to the southernmost tip of the world just to find snow.

Last year, according to Di Caprio – and many scientists would support this – was the hottest year in recorded history. In fact, some parts of Europe, such as the United Kingdom, experienced more rain in their winter than they normally do. The UK experienced the worst floods in a hundred years – pretty hectic.

So why the fuss?

Well apart from drought, hunger, the depletion of natural resources, and the possible lack of water in the next few decades – we’ll be okay… right?

Let me get to the nub of it, lest I am accused of being alarmist.

In his address, DiCaprio refers to climate change as “the most urgent threat facing our species,” and he talks about the need for people to support leaders around the world who do not speak for “the big polluters and the big corporations” – instead, they should support those who speak for the people whose voices have been “drowned out by the politics of greed”.

This statement is true.

In fact, Di Caprio was speaking to them already – the big corporations, that is!

The people he was arguing we need to do something about were right in front of him.

Human beings are consumers.

We love things, whatever they may be. And we don’t just love things, we like “nice things”. The trouble is, the “nice things” we enjoy have to come from somewhere: the environment.

In that room where the Oscars were being handed out, the value of the clothes alone could have easily reached hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Those products are made from the finest raw materials which in turn, have to come from the environment we dearly love.

The trouble is, those actors spend half, if not more, of their acting careers promoting a lifestyle that we all envy and desire – so we do our best to get those products and behave in a certain way, at the cost of the climate.

Turning around climate change is not going to come about purely from a scientific solution – it will involve behavioural change on our part, too.

This means that our living patterns will have to change.

That will start, I hope, if those we look up to show the way, like Leo was urging.

I wonder how many of those actors and superstars, with their private jets and massive gas-guzzlers (vehicles) think about climate change when using them to travel.

I wouldn’t know, but I also wouldn’t hold my breath.

The point I’m making is that the world’s largest consumers of products – who in this case also happen to be the world’s wealthiest – need to lead the way. Otherwise their applause and Leo’s speech remain just that – a good speech and a round of applause.

That being said, we need to look at what we can contribute before looking at the speck in our brother’s eye.

Congrats, Leo.

You can watch his acceptance speech below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dyp_DVgT260&feature=youtu.be

Think twice before you send that text

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I understand that it is the 21st century and I accept that “we are all busy”. In the midst of the rush from A to B, we often try and kill several birds with one stone. Texting and emailing have become such a big part of our lives. We have our hands glued to our smart devices and our eyes locked to the screens, while our fingers work their magic.

I must confess, I am not a fan of texting, emails, or group chats (yes, I said it).

However, I must engage the world, lest I am left behind.

But if we are going to have a conversation over email, let us do it properly. The modern era is not an excuse for poor communication.

With this in mind I put together what I believe are the rules of engagement for electronic communication:

  1. Write full words and sentences

I cannot overemphasise this.

Writing “K” or “cul” (for cool), could be excused in 2003 when we were stuck with Nokia 3310s, but today, the majority of phones have full keyboards! And if you’re that lazy, you can use the predictive text feature to assist you.

This rule not only applies to texting, but to emailing, too.

I have received numerous emails from people who have written in short hand. It just doesn’t look good or professional.

Let’s keep it full and in coherent sentences.

2. I am doing other things, too

While we enjoy the benefit of modern communication, we still have to live our lives. This means that while you have sent your correspondence, I may be doing something else.

This is not to be rude, but there is nothing worse than getting a text saying, “Hey did you get my text?” five minutes after receiving the first one. I understand the need for urgency but give it time. If it’s urgent, perhaps making a call is your next best option.

I understand if it has been two days and you have heard nothing back, but don’t make the mistake of thinking every bit of your correspondence needs urgent response.

That being said, it is also polite to let someone know if you have received it and will respond later. It could be a simple sentence saying: “Hi. I got your text, will respond ASAP”.

It takes two to tango, but both sides must have realistic expectations.

3. Do not repeat yourself – I got it the first time

I generally find this with emails.

Whenever they are sent back and forth, there is the temptation to say what has already been said, or to state the obvious.

Do not send it if it doesn’t need to be sent – the less there is in your friend’s inbox, the better. They’re probably dealing with a hundred other things.

4. Keep it short

Again, this generally applies to emails. I tend to err on the side of brevity. Make your point and sign off, unless it is a personal email to a friend. However, in doing this, make sure you maintain a level of politeness and professionalism despite your brevity.

5. Group chats and chain emails can be avoided

I am not sure if the invention of the “Reply All” button was a blessing or not.

The challenge with this feature and group chats, is that people who do not need to be in the conversation are roped in, to the bitter end of the chain correspondence.

If some people don’t need to be privy to the conversation, then exclude them, unless they expressly request to be part of it.

Being stuck in a conversation you have nothing to add to is just time consuming and sometimes detrimental to our sanity.

I hope these simple points can help our communication experience become even better.

Are we ready for a new kind of politics?

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When people hear the word “politics”, they tend to switch off immediately.

And I understand why.

The typical political campaign consists of massive campaign buses, adverts, banners, and people wearing party colours. This is what most of are used to seeing and experiencing.

That “brand” of politics is common. It’s all over the US election campaign, as we speak.

We expect politicians to speak in a certain way, to act in a particular manner, and have a certain aura about them.

Enter Deray Mckesson.

Deray has risen to significant social media prominence in the US and the world over.

He has become the face of the #BlackLivesMatter campaign in the US. The campaign – if you recall – was established after the shooting of Trayvon Martin and the acquittal of George Zimmerman, the man who shot him.

At the time of the Ferguson riots, Deray was very instrumental in organising and leading that group of activists.

But it is what has happened since then that is of interest.

Deray appears to have reinvented himself and moved into the arena of politics – and this time he is not organising any protests or movements, but an election campaign to be mayor of Baltimore.

The campaign is anything but typical.

Instead of being in a suit with a sleek campaign advert, Deray has stuck to his activist roots.

The campaign video on his website portrays him as a “local guy”, just another dude from Baltimore that you can relate to. He just wants to hear your story.

Just to be clear, I am not endorsing his campaign, or going against it. I don’t know enough about his background or what he has done in the past.

I am, however, asking whether people are ready to trust an activist in the highest office of a City like Baltimore in the US.

Does Deray know enough about policy, managing a city’s budget, safety, education, and healthcare matters, along with any other issues that come with being in office?

Can one transition from being a successful activist and now Twitter sensation, to carrying the burden of governing?

Does politics actually require one to have been “groomed” a certain way in order to run a city?

If you look up Deray and read up a bit about his values and what he believes to be truth, you will understand that it won’t be business as usual if he were to be elected into office. Is he perhaps an example of how the new generation want to do things going forward?

Deray recently did an interview on Stephen Colbert’s show. Take a look at it and catch a glimpse of his mindset. After you watch it, have a look at his website, where his election campaign, which is basically crowdfunded, is outlined.

Maybe the world is ready for a new kind of politics?

 

 

Is online shopping just a pipe dream in Africa?

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There is no doubt that more people have access to the internet and smart devices today than any other time in our history. In fact, this number continues to grow, especially in the developing world, which includes many African countries.

The internet age has brought with it many gifts. Emailing, instant messaging, and voice and video calling, among other things, have turned tasks that would have taken days, into fleeting actions. This, many would argue, has made our lives much easier. And I agree.

One of the great gifts of the internet has been the massive surge in online shopping, especially in the first world. This has given consumers access to shops they would not have normally been able to visit, and they can now buy whatever they want. These days you can buy clothes, food, and gadgets with the click of a button.

While this kind of online shopping has become incredibly successful in Europe and other parts of the first world, it is yet to pick up in a big way in Africa. Make no mistake, there are some parts of Africa where it has taken off. But this is not enough.

I recently had experiences that reminded me exactly why online shopping will remain a pipe dream for a very long time in Africa.

This is the sad reality.

It’s simple: online shopping must be an extension of the experience one should get when in a physical store.

For example, if you walked into a shoe store, the kind of quality of service and product you received would usually be a great indicator of what service you would receive if you were behind your desk looking at these products on your computer screen.

I other words, if you can’t get great service in person, don’t expect miracles online!

So does this mean online shopping in Africa is doomed? Not at all. It just means that before we take the leap forward and ultimately “catch up” with the rest of the world, we have to (almost) perfect what we have got.

We need the necessary in-store infrastructure to “back the service” when it is represented online.

One cannot paint the whole continent with the same brush because there are some online stores that are doing great things. Fair – but they are not enough.

I’ve heard too many stories from different people who have ordered something from an online food store and received the completely wrong order. This morning alone, I dealt with three different online services where people had simply failed to “copy and paste” information.

Last week, I dealt with a food chain store that was so unhygienic, I emailed management about it. It’s seven days later, and I have yet to receive a response.

The point is not to rant about the inefficiencies of service, but to merely argue that perhaps the digital revolution will not succeed without the necessary physical infrastructure and service to back this up. It is like trying to withdraw more money from the bank than you actually have in your account. It is simply not possible.

Changing the platform where the service is provided will not improve things it if it is a bad service to begin with.

I hope the developing world can wake up to this reality.

Listen to Bon Iver’s unreleased gem

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If you’re a Bon Iver fan you will love this.

News recently broke of a Bon Iver track, Haven, Mass, which didn’t make it onto their self-titled album released in 2011. The track carries the band’s signatures sound (I’m not sure how else to describe it, except with the word “beautiful”).

It was discovered by fans who recently attended the Eaux Claires Music & Arts Festival, co-organised by Bon Iver founder and leader Justin Vernon.

Ticket holders were apparently sent limited edition cassettes. It featured demos and B-sides from artists on the festival’s line-up – one of the songs being Haven, Mass. Vernon recently tweeted that it dated back to 2009 or 2010. He also tweeted a picture of the lyrics to the track:

Justin Vernon 1
Thankfully, someone has been generous enough to put up the full cassette on Soundcloud so we can all share in the goodness. Other artists featured on the compilation include Fall Creek Boys Choir and James Blake.

Bon Iver will be touring Asia this month, according to their Instagram accountI certainly hope it leads to another album!

Hope you enjoy the freedom! (My expression for anything amazing). Here is Haven, Mass:

And take a listen to the full cassette here: (Track: EauxClaires_Deux)

Super Bowl 50: The moments that mattered

If you suffer from FOMO (fear of missing out), but would love to be part of the American Super Bowl conversation, have no fear – we have you covered.

Every year, this event dominates the internet for a few days before and after. Although I am not generally fazed by it, I kind of wish I was there this year – because some really cool stuff happened!

Just to make sure we cover all our bases, The Super Bowl is the annual championship game of the National Football League (NFL), in the United States of America. It is the highest level of professional (American) football in the States. It always takes place on a Sunday and has become a strong American tradition; in fact, some churches have to change their service times on that day to accommodate the game. Hectic!

Here’s a recap of the main moments:

1.    The Winner:

We wouldn’t be discussing the Super Bowl without football. The 50th edition of this game was between the Carolina Panthers and the Denver Broncos. As it turns out the Broncos emerged victorious with a score of 24 to 10. Yay Broncos! (There’s a little factoid you can draw on to sound like you know what you’re talking about.)

Perhaps, for good measure, you could also mention that LB Von Miller from the Broncos was named Super Bowl 50, MVP (Most Valuable Player). The MVP (in many sports) is the player who has made an outstanding contribution to the success of his or her team. This is judged according to different factors, depending on the sport. Again, Yay Von Miller!

2.    Lady Gaga’s rendition of Star Spangled Banner:

I never thought I’d find myself saying this, but Lady Gaga absolutely smashed her performance of the US anthem. I think it’s safe to say Gaga silenced some of her critics. Some would argue that her outfit could have used some help, but I’ll let you be the judge. See her performance below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tyqkN3zezso

3.    Beyoncé steals the show (the halftime show):

A huge part of the Super bowl is the half time show. It is basically where entertainer(s) wow the crowds while the players grab a drinks break. This time Beyoncé, in my opinion, stole the show.

Beyoncé, who released her new single, Formation, a day before the game, performed it in tribute to what would appear to be the #BlackLivesMatter campaign. Her performance also coincidences with Black History Month, which is currently being observed in the US.

She and her backup dancers performed in all black attire. At one stage, her dancers had raised fists in what is being described as a “political statement” similar to that of Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the 1968 Olympics (the two represented the US at the Olympics that year, and also advocated for the rights of African Americans).

Beyoncé also took the opportunity to release her tour dates for 2016.

Basically, after she rocked the stage, everyone forgot that Coldplay or Bruno Mars also performed.

I’m sure the “political statement” will continue to rock US news for the next while.

4. NBA MVP Kevin Durant turns to photography:

As if Beyoncé and Lady Gaga weren’t enough to keep us glued to the action, NBA superstar and former MVP Kevin Durant also played a part in he action – as a photographer!

Durant, who currently plays for OKC Thunder (that’s a basketball team, in case you didn’t know), was at the event as an accredited photographer, and showed his skill behind the camera. Although he attracted some attention, he kept his cool and went about his business in the calm, collected Durant manner.

So, whenever the subject of the Super Bowl comes up during dinner table conversations over the next few days, don’t feel left out – you now have something to add!

The power of your platform

The saying “familiarity breeds contempt” is very true.

It simply means that when we become used to having something or someone in our space, we tend to take it or them for granted, and lose any semblance of awe and respect for that thing or person.

I have recently been challenged about remembering and realising the power of where I find myself in life.

Sometimes I think we begin to forget the power of the space and platforms we occupy and begin to take them for granted.

Let me elaborate: The people in our immediate circles of influence all work or study in a particular field of life. Some of your friends may be in the creative sector; others may be in the financial sector; while some may be in church ministry – pastors, worship leaders, or whatever it may be. But the truth is, whatever field they are in, they have a “platform”. They have a sphere of influence that they are able to use in whatever way they deem appropriate.

Often, the misconception is that in order to make a real difference in the world in a spiritual sense, one needs to be directly linked to the church or some organisation that represents the church or Christian values. I have recently been reminded that this is not necessarily true.

Whatever sphere of life you are in, you are the best placed in that moment in time to make an impact.

Often, I find that because I am a Christian, I exercise caution when sharing my faith outside of Christian circles. This is not done intentionally, but more from the point of view of being careful not to offend people. However, what I have come to realise is that more often than not, if one brings a message with the right tone and heart, people are actually very receptive. In fact, people tend to respect you more for being able to stand up and share your faith.

I recently came across three interviews that have inspired me to use the platform and opportunities we come across to share our faith.

Pastors Carl Lentz, Rich Wilkerson Jr, and Kirk Franklin recently appeared on the world famous radio show The Breakfast Club, hosted by DJ Envy, Charlamagne and Angela Yee. Some of the world’s leading fashion, music and acting icons have been featured on this show. I suppose it is one of those studio visits to “tick off your list” when you reach a certain level of fame.

Despite being on the world’s most famous hip-hop breakfast show, Kirk, Carl, and Rich used the opportunity to break down their faith and dispel the numerous stereotypes about Christians: That they aren’t weird; that you don’t have to dress a certain way to meet with Jesus; that they listen to great music too; and that they even speak to people who aren’t Christian!

The church has definitely come a long way from the days where you couldn’t wear a pair of jeans on a Sunday. This is not to say there’s anything wrong with people who still do not feel that is appropriate, but it means that those who feel comfortable wearing their jeans have the freedom to worship, too.

These three interviews on The Breakfast Club reminded me that while we sit back and contemplate how to talk about faith without “freaking” others out, the world loses out on what we have to say.

It is simple: use the platform you have – people want to listen. Ask DJ Envy – any day now, he’ll be making his way to church… his words not mine!

How are you using your platform?

Watch all three interviews below:

Kirk Franklin: 

Carl Lentz:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=utWfXdzlmjI

Rich Wilkerson Jr:

 

 

I’m accountable… to an app

Accountability is one of those words that are thrown around regularly, but that we don’t necessarily enjoy hearing – because we often hear it when we haven’t done something we intended to do.

We are generally accountable to our superiors in the workplace, at school, university, or church; and our friends, leaders and mentors.

The saying that “we judge ourselves by our intentions and others by their actions” is so true.

So, at the beginning of this year I thought long and hard about some of the things I would love to change going forward.

After listing a few things I thought needed some urgent attention, the next question was: How am I going to achieve this? And more importantly, who is going to make sure I don’t waiver in my priorities?

One of the things on this list was to get healthier and fitter.

I am generally an active person. I enjoy the outdoors, the odd hike, a game of touch rugby and backyard cricket, amongst other games.

But last year I honestly let that aspect of my life slip. So I decided, to fix this. The trouble is that I wanted to be able to do this with someone. However, because of the busyness of life, it was just impractical.

Then it hit me: there is an app for that! 

So I ran a search for the kind of app I was looking for and voila, I found the exact thing I was looking for.

These days, my progress is assisted by this app. It reminds me when I need to put in some exercise time, when I need to rest, how far I need to go (when I run or walk), and even not to over-train in order to avoid injury.

Don’t get me wrong, the app cannot replace human interaction, but it is a great step in the right direction if you intend on starting something without making excuses for not being able to do it due to a lack of a partner/friend/mentor etc.

Yesterday marked the first day of the second month of the year (already!). But how many people do you know that have already failed/dropped their new year’s goals and resolutions?

I saw something on social media recently, it read: “January was really a trial run for 2016; I’ll start fresh in February.”

This is hilarious, but often true.

Make no mistake; I am not here to judge people who haven’t succeeded in keeping their targets, because there are some things I have also failed at. But I have certainly made a start, with the help of technology.

It’s amazing how whenever I am planning my life now, I “consult” my trusted app to make sure I make enough time to get in the workout I require. When I am done with the day’s tasks, there is no greater feeling than seeing a green tick and hearing the encouraging voice at the end of a workout: “Boom!, Well done, see you tomorrow,” or “Woah, you’re on a roll!”

It all seems trivial, but it has helped me make a start.

In the 21st century, perhaps it is time we fully harnessed the power of what our phones can do to help make life easier and help us achieve our goals.

There are some things that apps obviously cannot assist you with, which I understand. You cannot, after all, have a proper conversation with Siri. However, when it comes to the things that you can outsource to your app store, then why not?

Are you using technology to its fullest in achieving some of your goals this year?

Because chances are that whatever you need to do… there’s an app for that! 

Why the new Michael Jackson movie could be a disaster

It would be safe to say this has been a long time coming. People have been expecting this. In fact, it almost seems like the “right thing to do”: A star is born or discovered, the world adores them, they die too soon, we wait a few years… and then comes the movie of their life story (or some aspect of it, at least).

We’ve been there with James Brown; and we have seen it with Steve Jobs and Amy Winehouse, among others.

Now we are well on our way to having one made to honour Michael Jackson.

A documentary about Jackson, who died in June 2009, has already has been released: This is it portrays the last concert he was planning to put together prior to his retirement. But this time, news has broken that British actor Joseph Fiennes will play Michael Jackson in a new film.

The movie, we’re told, will focus on the period just after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the United States. Since all flights in and out of New York were banned during that period, we are told that Jackson took a road trip with Elizabeth Taylor and Marlon Brandon to escape the city at the time.

While it appears the veracity of this story is still in question, we will likely still get the movie.

I’m sure you would agree that the world would be overjoyed at the prospect of a project like this. The King of Pop will “live again” on our screens. I mean, the man still makes more money from the grave than some of us who are alive and well. He was and remains the ultimate legend.

But why has this movie already failed before hitting the big screens?

Firstly there is outrage over the suggested lead actor to play Michael Jackson. The selection of Fiennes for the part has caused an uproar the world over. I don’t think it has much to do with the fact that he is British, but more to do with the fact that he is white.

In order to support their argument, fans have dug up an old interview that Michael did with Oprah, where he discusses his skin colour. In it, Oprah talks about a rumour that had been doing the rounds that Michael had wanted a white child to play him in a Pepsi commercial. Michael absolutely rubbishes the rumour, arguing that while he had skin pigmentation challenges, he was still a proud black American. Oprah goes on to ask about why Michael’s skin had changed over the years. In the same hour long conversation, Jackson goes on to describe his challenge with his skin disorder which caused him to look the way he did in his adult life.

You can watch the live interview below (the question about the skin colour and the Pepsi commercial is from 23:50 to 28:00):

One thing that isn’t mentioned in the interview is what kind of actor would or should play Michael as an adult.

Which leads me to my main point: Why would Michael Jackson be bothered by  Joseph Fiennes playing him as an adult? It is after all, probably the most reasonable thing to do in this situation.

Furthermore, in the interview with Oprah, Michael argues that what is important above all else, is art. So why would one obsess over the pigmentation of his skin?

I believe the obsession with Michael’s pigmentation in the lead up to this movie has already taken away from a potentially great piece of work.

I think people are not upset about Fiennes playing Jackson – they are upset that the movie isn’t going to be how they had envisioned it.

At the end of the day, Fiennes hasn’t been given a fair opportunity. The movie is about adult Michael and should be viewed as such.

It is amazing how we are all fans of art until it doesn’t suit our preference. It is like arguing in favour of free speech, as long as it is something we like to hear.

Fiennes must crack on, even though he may have already failed (according to public opinion).

Musings on the Oscars boycott

The annual Oscars gala may not be the same in 2016.

This is the case after Jada Pinkett-Smith and several other stars recently came out calling on actors to boycott the prestigious awards ceremony. Her husband, Will Smith, has also come out in support of the boycott. In addition to the Smiths, renowned producer, writer, director, and actor Spike Lee will also not be attending the February 28 affair.

They all claim that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Oscar nominees list of 2016 is not diverse enough. Basically, they’re arguing that after so many years, the Academy are still overlooking deserving black, and other minority actors.

In a recent Instagram post, Spike Lee asked how it was possible that “…for the 2nd consecutive year all 20 contenders under the actor category are white? …40 white actors in 2 years and no flava at all. We can’t act?!”

Will Smith has argued that the boycott wasn’t about him being nominated. Instead, it was “about children that are going to sit down and watch this show and they’re not going to see themselves represented”.

The #OscarSoWhite hashtag has gone viral on social media and Hollywood is divided on this matter.

There has also been considerable pressure on the host of the evening, Chris Rock, who is also black, to withdraw from the event. In fact, we are told that Rock has begun rewriting his opening monologue given the uneasy nature of this year’s event.

It would appear that not only politicians and economists have to contend with matters of race – but our entertainers as well. Rest assured, this issue will not go away anytime soon.

But the question is: how do you deal with the issue of diversity, specifically in the entertainment industry?

From what I gather, it is not as “regulated” as most sectors of the economy. It is easy when you have a law that establishes specific guidelines on what needs to be done. Such a law could be specific: timelines, numbers, and other stipulations. But in this case, all we have is a commitment from the Oscars organisers that by 2020, the group of nominees will be more diverse.

However, 2020 is four years away. So do we wait another four years just to see a black actor win? What is to be done?

Do we boycott until the list becomes more diverse? And if we do, and the list is in fact more representative, does this mean those actors are deserving or are they just “quota actors”? Does it mean we stop supporting any of the work put out by other artists?

I am always of the view that, rather than bring down the institution you are trying to build, you should do something to change what is before you.

But how do you affect change on something you have no control over?

The list of questions is endless.

Like the title suggests, these are merely musings on this unfolding drama.

And sadly, I have no solutions to offer apart from the fact that something needs to happen to not only preserve but advance what we already have: a range of talented human beings from various backgrounds who just want us to appreciate their work, and rightly so.

Sometimes, I guess, the difficult questions that demand responses are what bring about change – whatever that may look like.

#OscarSoWhite? or Nah?

What do you think is the best way to ensure a more representative entertainment industry? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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