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The Movement for Equity Picks Up Momentum at the Oscars

Hollywood and social justice activism took the stage together at the Oscars in 2018, as stars from both worlds used the spotlight to lift up some of the biggest issues low-income families face: Inclusion, racial equity, sexual harassment and immigration.

At the Oscars their partnership peaked when Common and Andra Day performed their Oscar-nominated song “Stand Up for Something” with 10 grassroots advocates, including Black Lives Matters co-founder Patrisse Cullors and Dolores Huerta, who created the United Farm Workers of America with Cesar Chavez. 

Common, left, and Diane Warren pose on Feb. 5 at the 90th Academy Awards nominees luncheon in Beverly Hills, California. Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP

Their performance and the Oscars represented a broadening of the new wave of activism sweeping Hollywood. The wave grabbed the public’s attention at the Golden Globe Awards in January, when the #MeToo and Time’s Up campaigns raised national awareness about sexual harassment, as stars walked the red carpet and took the stage. 

At the Oscars, this activism encompassed a broader community, including those fighting for immigration rights and racial justice.

“I think that was a really big step as the campaign continues to build momentum. It’s shifting. It’s broadening to different communities, women in different industries,” Marzena Zukowska, spokeswoman for the National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA), said.

The fight against sexual harassment is clearly playing a leading role in this movement, but domestic workers know that issue is intimately connected to racial discrimination, systemically low wages, fear of deportation and other issues they face, Zukowska added.

What’s next? The Oscars was only the latest step in this effort. On March 9a movie adaptation of the classic book “A Wrinkle in Time” opens with a message of diversity, following the record opening of “Black Panther” in February.

Also, the Golden Globe Awards represented a coming-out moment for working women sharing their stories, Zukowska said. That moment and the Oscars’s renewed focus are providing domestic workers added attention in sharing their stories and advocating for dignity, better wages and improved work conditions.

“That kind of creates an opening and space for our members to own that narrative power,” Zukowska said.

The days surrounding the Oscars were buzzing with new projects and stories that were the result of collaboration between Hollywood stars and grassroots advocates. Here are a few:

  • The National Domestic Workers Alliance released its own movie on Twitter March 5, an animated short about reclaiming the narrative for domestic workers. “By changing the stories that are told, we can change the way immigrants and women of color are viewed and valued, from invisibility to visibility, from visibility to power. These are the women who move movements and change paradigms,” the movie stated.
  • StoryCorps teamed up with Time’s Up on a project that will capture stories of working women. To help kick off the project, actress Rashida Jones talked with caregiver Myrla Baldonado about her journey. Check out these stories and learn how to share your own at StoryCorps.
  • On March 2, Restaurant Opportunities Centers United President Saru Jayaraman appeared on the PBS show “#MeToo, Now What?” to talk about “how the sub-minimum wage for tipped workers is the reason that the restaurant industry has the worst sexual harassment rates of any industry” and other issues.

This is only a small sample of work occurring as leaders of domestic and restaurant workers talk with members of the Hollywood community about the need for equity and dignity for everyone.


Equal Voice is Marguerite Casey Foundation’s publication featuring stories of America’s families creating social change. With Equal Voice, we challenge how people think and talk about poverty in America. Paul Nyhan is the senior writer for Equal Voice. About the top photo: Frances McDormand accepts the award for best performance by an actress in a leading role for “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” at the Oscars on March 4, 2018 in Los Angeles. In her acceptance speech, she called for more inclusion of women in Hollywood. Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP.   

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