More than 300 black artists and executives are calling upon Hollywood to make a change.
After being shot seven times by rubber bullets at a recent protest, “Insecure” actor Kendrick Sampson penned an open letter “to our allies in Hollywood,” in which he calls upon Tinseltown to “divest from police,” “invest in anti-racist content” and more.
The letter, shared with Variety, was developed by “Thor: Ragnarok” star Tessa Thompson and Black Lives Matter co-founders Patrisse Cullors and Melina Abdullah.
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More than 300 black people involved with the film industry signed the letter, including Idris Elba, Queen Latifah, Anthony Mackie, Chadwick Boseman, Angela Bassett, Kerry Washington, Michael B. Jordan, Viola Davis and many more.
“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,” the letter began. “Yet, historically and currently, Hollywood encourages the epidemic of police violence and culture of anti-Blackness.”
The note said that the current models of portraying black people, police, the justice system and more have “had dire consequences on Black lives,” including stories depicting black people as violent. Such portrayals, the letter said, “encourage cops like Derek Chauvin, the murderer of George Floyd.”
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The letter said that Hollywood rarely recruits black agents and that often times, the companies benefiting from black 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,” the letter said. “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.”
The note then pointed out several examples of how potential black employees are overlooked, giving black people less and less influence in telling their own stories.
“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,” the letter said.
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Five core demands were highlighted in the note: “Divest from police,” “divest from anti-black content,” “invest in our careers,” “invest in anti-racist content” and “invest in our community.”
Specific measures for meeting the demands were outlined on BLD PWR’s website.
“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,” the letter concluded.
“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.”
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The letter comes amid a period of mass civil unrest in America and around the world in response to police brutality against black people.
Protests were sparked around the globe after the May 25 death of George Floyd, who died in police custody after officer Derek Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck for over eight minutes in Minneapolis, Minn.