Black Artists Challenge Hollywood: “Prove Black Lives Matter”

Black Artists Challenge Hollywood: "Prove Black Lives Matter"
Among the actors and industry executives putting pressure on Hollywood, from left to right: Idris Elba, Queen Latifah, Billy Porter, Viola Davis, Chadwick Boseman and Issa Rae.

After being hit with a police baton and shot seven times by rubber bullets while protesting in the streets of Los Angeles on March 30, actor and activist Kendrick Sampson is demanding justice and change.

Sampson and other Black actors and organizations have teamed up to challenge Hollywood to acknowledge its lack of commitment to inclusion and its role in the control and systemic oppression of Black narratives, and demand Hollywood affirm the value of Black lives.

Sampson—who plays Nathan on HBO’s “Insecure”—is co-founder of BLD PWR (pronounced “build power”), an organization intertwined with Black Lives Matter LA that encourages celebrities to utilize their platforms to generate radical social change.

Black Artists Challenge Hollywood: "Prove Black Lives Matter"
Kendrick Sampson, founder of BLD PWR, speaks at a Black Lives Matter Protest on June 6, 2020. (Brett Morrison / Flickr)

Part of BLD PWR is the initiative Hollywood 4 Black Lives, a letter calling on Hollywood to finally stand up for Black lives in the entertainment industry.

Developed alongside Tessa Thompson (“Avengers: Endgame,” “Westworld”) and Black Lives Matter co-founders Melina Abdullah and Patrisse Cullors, the letter demands Hollywood acknowledge its long and not-so-old legacy of reinforcing white supremacy and urges Hollywood to take real steps towards addressing the harm it has perpetuated.

The letter was signed by over 300 artists, executives and organizations—including Idris Elba, Viola Davis, Queen Latifah, Chadwick Boseman, Octavia Spencer, Janet Mock, Tiffany Haddish, Issa Rae, Kerry Washington, Billy Porter, Zöe Kravitz, Laverne Cox, Leslie Odom Jr., Janelle Monáe and many more.

In addition to those working in entertainment, social justice and community-led organizations—such as Women of Color Unite, NAACP Hollywood Bureau and the National Black Justice Coalition—also added their voices to the letter.

Addressing the entertainment industry at large, the letter calls on Hollywood to take “bold moves to affirm, defend and invest in Black lives.” It outlines the need for Hollywood to divest from policing and to invest in the careers of Black people working in the industry as well as the Black community at large.

It begins:

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. 


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The list bellow provides a summary of the letter’s demands.

1. Divest from Police

  • Commit to no police on sets or at events, instead hiring private un-unionized security officers when necessary.
  • Pressure every state and city from which Hollywood benefits from tax rebates to divest from police and invest in Black communities (based on the model outlined at PeoplesBudgetLA.com).

2. Divest from Anti-Black Content

  • End the intentional glorification of police brutality and corruption in storytelling and all content that dehumanizes, criminalizes or champions abuse by law enforcement of Black people.

3. Invest in Anti-Racist Content

  • Invest in developing, producing and distributing anti-racist content that humanizes and advances nuanced portrayals of Black people.
  • Hire culturally competent social justice consultants to help identify bias and prevent racist, anti-Black LGBTQIA+ and other culturally insensitive portrayals of Black people.

4. Invest in Black Careers

  • Every agency and management company should have Black partners and board members and provide substantial support for its Black agents and managers—cis-gender and trans.
  • Every Hollywood institution should have a system of recruitment and ongoing support of Black professionals with clear paths to promotion at the highest levels

5. Invest in the Black Community

  • Every union must expand its accountability of workplace safety to include racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, biphobia and other related biases and attacks.
  • Create an anti-racism task force with substantial power to hold studios and production companies accountable and include specific intersectional protections in our negotiations.

The entertainment industry must use its power and unique position to radically change the oppressive, systemic and white supremacist culture that persists in Hollywood.

“Because Hollywood has been a huge part of the problem, we demand it be a part of the solution,” writes Sampson.


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About

Violet Rawlings is a junior at Smith College majoring in the Study of Women and Gender as well as Film and Media Studies. She is currently an editorial and social media intern at Ms.