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Cynthia Erivo Responds to Stephen King's Tweet on Diversity

The British-Nigerian actress begs to differ with the veteran author's tweet on diversity and 'quality' in this year's Oscar nominations.

British-Nigerian actress Cynthia Erivo has responded to veteran author Stephen King's recent tweets on the issue of diversity and this year's Oscar nominations.

King has been subject to considerable backlash since his controversial tweet about how he would "never consider diversity" when it comes to evaluating art of awards citing that, "It seems to me that to do otherwise would be wrong."


It's a turbulent time for the film industry after notable snubs of both women and people of color from prominent award shows such as the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTAs) and this year's Oscars.

While notable celebrities including The Daily Show host Trevor Noah, film director Ava Duvernay, Erivo and several others have all spoken out against the largely White and male Oscar nominations for this year's awards, others on the other hand, have claimed that seeking diversity would somehow compromise quality—King included.

He tweeted that: "As a writer, I am allowed to nominate in just 3 categories: Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Original Screenplay. For me, the diversity issue – as it applies to individual actors and directors, anyway – did not come up. That said I would never consider diversity in matters of art. Only quality."

In response to King's tweets, Erivo said that, "I feel like this year we had a flurry of beautiful pieces by people who are of a diverse nature — black women, women in general." She added that, "We just have to open the doors and open our eyes to the people who are making the work."

Interestingly enough, Erivo is currently a part of The Outsider, a limited series adapted from one of King's novels. Speaking at a press tour for the production, the actress said that, "I am one of the players, so if there's room for me to play, that's what I'm going to do. She ended by saying, "And if I can create room for others, that's also what I'm going to do."

King has since back peddled on his earlier tweets with two others that read: "The most important thing we can do as artists and creative people is make sure everyone has the same fair shot, regardless of sex, color, or orientation. Right now such people are badly under-represented, and not only in the arts. You can't win awards if you're shut out of the game."

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This article was originally published on OkayAfrica in March, 2017. We're republishing it here for our Crossroads series.

It's 2000 something. I'm holed up in my bedroom searching for samples to chop up on Fruity Loops. While deep into the free-market jungle of Amazon's suggested music section, I stumble across a compilation of Ethiopian music with faded pictures of nine guys jamming in white suit jackets. I press play on the 30 second sample.

My mind races with the opportunities these breakbeats offered a budding beat maker. Catchy organs, swinging horns, funky guitar riffs, soulful melodies and grainy and pained vocalists swoon over love lost and gained. Sung in my mother tongue—Amharic—this was a far cry from the corny synthesizer music of the 1990s that my parents played on Saturday mornings. I could actually sample this shit.

The next day, I burn a CD and pop it into my dad's car. His eyes light up when the first notes ooze out of the speakers. “Where did you get this?" He asks puzzlingly. “The internet," I respond smiling.

In the 1970s my dad was one of thousands of high school students in Addis Ababa protesting the monarchy. The protests eventually created instability which lead to a coup d'état. The monarchy was overthrown and a Marxist styled military junta composed of low ranking officers called the Derg came to power. The new regime subsequently banned music they deemed to be counter revolutionary. When the Derg came into power, Amha Eshete, a pioneering record producer and founder of Ahma Records, fled to the US and the master recordings of his label's tracks somehow ended up in a warehouse in Greece.

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