Kendrick Sampson and over 300 Black artists ask Hollywood to divest from police

wenn37441777

If you watch Issa Rae’s Insecure, you are probably familiar with Kendrick Sampson. He’s been in much more than that, of course, including How to Get Away with Murder and Vampire Diaries, but Insecure is so hot right now, a lot of people are familiar with his Nathan character. Kendrick is 32 years old and he is as much a successful activist as he is actor. Kendrick founded the Build Power foundation that is working to tap the entertainment industry’s power to heighten activism and minority voices. You can read their mission statement here. Kendrick was recently in the news for a widely viewed clip of a BLM demonstration in Los Angeles in which Kendrick was shot four times with rubber bullets and repeatedly hit with a baton by police. This week, Kendrick helped author a letter on behalf of Hollywood 4 Black Lives, which he and several hundred Black artists signed, asking Hollywood to divest from police by removing them from sets and to divest from promoting anti-Black content that dehumanizes or criminalizes Black people. The letter reads:

To our allies in Hollywood:

Hollywood has a privilege as a creative industry to imagine and create. We have significant influence over culture and politics. We have the ability to use our influence to imagine and create a better world. Yet, historically and currently, Hollywood encourages the epidemic of police violence and culture of anti-Blackness.

The way that Hollywood and mainstream media have contributed to the criminalization of Black people, the misrepresentation of the legal system, and the glorification of police corruption and violence has had dire consequences on Black lives. This includes stories that demonize our mental health as violent. These stories contribute to the killings of Black people like Deborah Danner, who was murdered by NYPD Sgt. Hugh Barry. It also includes the perpetuation of transphobic stories which are used to justify the murder of Tony McDade in Florida, Nina Pop in Missouri, Dominique Fells in Philadelphia, and Riah Milton in Ohio. We must end the exaltation of officers and agents that are brutal and act outside of the law as heroes. These portrayals encourage cops like Derek Chauvin, the murderer of George Floyd.

The lack of a true commitment to inclusion and institutional support has only reinforced Hollywood’s legacy of white supremacy. This is not only in storytelling.
It is cultural and systemic in Hollywood. Our agencies, which often serve as industry gatekeepers, don’t recruit, retain or support Black agents. Our unions don’t consider or defend our specific, intersectional struggles. Unions are even worse for our below-the-line crew, especially for Black women. Hollywood studios and production companies that exploit and profit from our stories rarely have any senior-level Black executives with greenlighting power.

Even with the recent successes of Black-led and produced films and television, myths of limited international sales and lack of universality of Black-led stories are used to reduce our content to smaller budgets and inadequate marketing campaigns. White people make up the smallest racial demographic globally, yet their stories are seen as internationally universal. When we do get the rare chance to tell our stories, our development, production, distribution, and marketing processes are often marred, filtered, and manipulated by the white gaze.

Due to Hollywood’s immense influence over politics and culture, all of the racism, discrimination and glass ceilings Black people in Hollywood experience on a regular basis have direct implications on Black lives everywhere.

Every time a Black executive or assistant is passed over for a promotion, or the marketing or production budget for another Black-led film is limited, or when Black agents aren’t supported, Black writers are shut out, outnumbered or diminished, Black hair stylists are neglected, Black grips, gaffers, and camera assistants and operators are shut out of below the line unions – EVERY SINGLE TIME – this gives us less control over our narratives, continues the legacy of white supremacy’s influence over our stories and makes Black people in Hollywood and all over America less safe.

By allowing white people to control and oppress the narratives that affirm Black lives, Hollywood has directly and indirectly inflicted harm and oppression onto our communities. Because Hollywood has been a huge part of the problem, we demand it be a part of the solution. We, as Black people, bring immense, immeasurable cultural and economic value to the industry. We are also suffering from the oppression perpetuated by this industry. We have every right to demand this change.

We demand better. Prove that Black Lives Matter to Hollywood by taking bold moves to affirm, defend and invest in Black lives. Follow the examples of the Minneapolis School District, Denver Public Schools, the University of Minnesota and many other institutions in divesting from the policing system and investing in the Black community.

We demand that Hollywood:
DIVEST FROM POLICE
DIVEST FROM ANTI-BLACK CONTENT
INVEST IN OUR CAREERS
INVEST IN ANTI-RACIST CONTENT
INVEST IN OUR COMMUNITY
Full list of demands at http://www.BLDPWR.com

We know these changes have the power to change Black lives in America. It is time for Hollywood to acknowledge its role and take on the responsibility of repairing the damage and being a proactive part of the change.

In light of continued systemic, brutal murders of Black people, members of the Black community in Hollywood are standing together with the Movement for Black Lives, a coalition of community-based organizations from all over the country including Black Lives Matter, and with the families and loved ones of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Kenneth Ross Jr, Wakeisha Wilson, Rayshard Brooks and countless others in the movement to Defund Police and Defend Black Lives.

[From Variety]

As cited, over 300 actors and organizations signed the letter including Tessa Thompson, Chadwick Boseman, Naomie Harris, David Oyelowo, Anthony Mackie, Queen Latifah and Octavia Spencer. This letter comes on the heels of statements issued by We See You White American Theater and one from Black Artists for Freedom entitled Our Juneteenth, which also called for changes in Black story representation and to cut ties with the police, both also signed by hundreds of artists and crew. There is little I can add other than I agree. Here are their full demands. Read the letters, take what they are saying to heart, promote these statements and stipulations within your circle of friends and on social media. Going forward, make a pledge to yourself to support endeavors that put to practice what these letters ask for. Because, as the letter states, they, “have every right to demand this change,” and we have an obligation to back them.

wenn37688091

wenn37336621

wenn37644019

wenn37441777

Photo credit: WENN/Avalon

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

8 Responses to “Kendrick Sampson and over 300 Black artists ask Hollywood to divest from police”

Comments are Closed

We close comments on older posts to fight comment spam.

  1. Nev says:

    Amazing!!!

  2. There’s not a single point in his statement that’s unsupportable.

    The impediment would be white studio/agency heads “giving up/sharing” some of their power hold. And we all know that isn’t going to happen willingly w/out a fight. People may “say” they’re supportive, but it doesn’t always mean they’ll “share” in a real sense, or will just throw a bone/token in its place to placate.

  3. Jo73c says:

    The other thing that needs to change in mainstream media is how TV shows portray the police. We’ve been watching a few box sets during lockdown, from 80′s classics to brand new shows and while the 80′s shows are full of the openly racist and misogynistic stereotypes that you’d expect, what struck me most is how the new shows pretend to be better, but aren’t.

    Sure, they present as having a more diverse cast within the squad, but still too often present BAME characters as the bad guys and portray female victims as kind-of-asking-for-it.

    They emphasise the strength of the bond within the squad so that we will root for them when they have to beat up or shoot a criminal to dispense justice, ignoring the fact that that’s not what the police are there for. What they’re really showing us is a mentality within the police force of Us versus Them heightened to the point where it can only be viewed as propaganda. We’re not actually in their squad. We’re the civilian population that is portrayed as either victim or criminal with nothing in between.

    • Darla says:

      Very thought provoking post. I never watch cop shows, I hate them. I just never took to them I guess. I don’t watch any of the Law and orders for one example. My mom loves them! I’ve seen some of them of course. She loves Blue Bloods and I yell at her about it, she’s staying with me right now because her air conditioner is down. I have told her you’re not putting that isht on in here. My mom’s a democrat btw. But she doesn’t get it, she really believes they show ‘both sides”. I love my mother, but I have to tell you, it is costing me 7 grand to replace her air conditioning unit, and they are finally doing it tomorrow, and even though my business has been hurt from the pandemic, I consider this worth every penny. I’m like, here take my money.

      I struggle with Lucifer and believe I am going to rewatch especially the Dan role, and do some writing about it before Season 5 premieres in August. It’s almost like an Angel type show, but…the cops.

      • lucy2 says:

        It’s appalling how many shows are based on cops, with a “cops can do no wrong” attitude.
        I think it’s because it’s been easy for them – people watch it because it’s all that’s on, and networks keep putting it on because people watch it – it’s a lazy circle.

        Kendrick’s foundation’s website is excellent, and goes into such great detail about the Hollywood stuff, and has good resources for mental health services, books, etc. (You can also donate).

      • Haapa says:

        The only show I have every seen that showed cops in an honest light was The Wire. There’s a reason it’s considered the best television show ever produced.

  4. ethy says:

    Kendrick is doing great work, definitely suggest following him on social media.

    • Esmom says:

      Well said, Kendrick, and well said, Hecate. I would like to believe that we really are at the beginning of a massive societal, cultural, political shift. Finally.