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National Association of Black Journalists ‘Encouraged’ by HFPA Reform, Will Monitor Promised Changes

The move follows Time’s Up denunciation of proposals as “sorely lacking and hardly transformational”

The National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) says it is encouraged by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s “transformational” reform plan but that it will monitor closely the progress of the promised changes.

“NABJ is encouraged by the comprehensive plan billed by the organization as ‘transformational.’ However, the NABJ Board feels it is premature for full applause until there is documented implementation of the numerous changes adopted by the organization,” The NABJ said. “The HFPA has been under fire from NABJ, a number of groups and individuals after revelations that the organization has had no Black members over the past 20 years.”

In a statement, NABJ president Dorothy Tucker added: “If the changes are implemented as promised, the plan will indeed be transformational. We are committed to monitoring implementation and helping HFPA do what it says it will do. Too many times organizations say they are going to do one thing in the diversity, equity and inclusion arena only to fall short of expectations. We will be vocal and proactive in our actions on the progress and, if necessary, the lack of progress the HFPA makes in bringing its plan to fruition.” 

On Thursday, the HFPA overwhelming approved a set of sweeping reforms. In the voice vote held over Zoom, 74 of the 87 members voted to approve a proposal that would increase its membership by 50% in the next 18 months, appoint professional executive leadership and hold new board elections this fall. Three members voted no, four voted to abstain and eight were absent, according to a knowledgeable individual.

Earlier this week, the group pledged to increase membership by 50%, including a substantial increase in Black members, hold new board elections and hire professional executive leadership. The board asked for members to approve the new reforms; otherwise it would “take more serious measures, including but not limited to the Board resigning, if the membership does not timely approve and implement the below reforms.”

The HFPA has been under fire in recent months over its lack of any Black members — as well as its track record of snubbing movies and TV shows with Black creators — and deep corruption that drew backlash from the Hollywood community, prompting Time’s Up to demand an overhaul of the organization. In response to the backlash, the group hired a diversity consultant, USC professor Shaun Harper, to address “systemic” issues. But following a meeting with Time’s Up, Harper quit after he was confronted with the details of the HFPA’s problems. In addition, former HFPA president Philip Berk was expelled last month after sending an email to members with a post describing Black Lives Matter as a “hate movement.” The HFPA said it would announce a set of reforms by May 6. See the full list of reforms here.

“We implore the organization to hold true to these changes and to embrace the contributions that Black journalists around the world can bring to it,” NABJ vice president of broadcast Ken Lemon said, while NABJ vice president of digital Roland Martin added: “The actions of the HFPA are a good step. What we need to see is sustained, substantive action that will result in a changed organization. We are committed to ensuring that happens, and will remain vigilant in doing so.”

See the NABJ’s full statement here.