The head of the Oscars says she is heartbroken by the lack of diversity and is working to implement change after two high-profile black celebrities vowed to boycott next month's awards ceremony.
Responding to Jada Pinkett Smith and Spike Lee's threatened action — the result of an all-white nominee list, released last week — film academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs said a review of membership recruitment would be conducted to bring about "much-needed diversity".
Pinkett Smith— whose husband Will Smith missed out on an Oscars nod for his role in the film Concussion— posted a video on Facebook yesterday with the caption "We must stand in our power".
On the birthday of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr, Pinkett Smith said she would not attend, nor would she watch the Oscars on February 28.
Ms Boone Isaacs said she was "both heartbroken and frustrated about the lack of inclusion".
"The academy is taking dramatic steps to alter the makeup of our membership," she said in a statement.
"In the coming days and weeks we will conduct a review of our membership recruitment in order to bring about much-needed diversity in our 2016 class and beyond."
She said the academy had implemented changes to diversify its membership over the last four years.
"But the change is not coming as fast as we would like," Ms Boone Isaacs said.
"We need to do more, and better and more quickly."
Pinkett Smith suggested "people of colour" should not have to beg for recognition.
"Is it time that people of colour recognise how much power, influence that we have amassed, that we no longer need to ask to be invited anywhere," she said on the video that has been viewed over 7 million times.
"Have we now come to a new time and place where we recognise that we can no longer beg for the love, acknowledgement or respect of any group?
"That maybe it's time that we recognise that if we love and respect and acknowledge ourselves in the way in which we are asking others to do, then that is the place of true power."
Pinkett Smith said the Academy had the right to acknowledge whoever it saw fit, but suggested it was time the black community broke away from the mainstream awards system.
- The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has over 7,000 members in 17 specialist branches and two general categories
- New members must be sponsored by two existing members, or nominated for an Oscar
- Academy Award nominations and voting are open to academy members only
- Membership is for life, so many are no longer involved in movie-making
- Read more here
"Maybe it is time we pull back our resources and we put them back into our communities, into our programs and we make programs for ourselves that acknowledge us in ways we see fit, that are just as good as the so-called mainstream ones," she said.
"Begging for acknowledgement, or even asking, diminishes dignity and diminishes power, and we are dignified people and we are powerful."
The video was released as people used the social media hashtag #OscarsSoWhite to vent their anger over the fact that no black actors received nominations in the 2016 awards.
Director, writer and actor Spike Lee also took to Facebook to boycott the Oscars, asking why no black actors had been nominated in two years.
"We cannot support it and mean no disrespect ... but how is it possible for the second consecutive year, all 20 contenders under the actor category are white?" Lee wrote.
"And let's not even get into the other branches.
"Forty white actors in two years and no flava [sic] at all.
"It is amazing how far sports and music have moved ahead of Hollywood and television."