Hundreds of Black artists sign letter calling for change in Hollywood: 'We demand better'
More than 300 Black artists and executives signed an open letter published Tuesday, demanding systemic change in Hollywood with regard to racism, discrimination, and representation.
The letter, headlined "Hollywood 4 Black Lives," was spearheaded by actor and activist Kendrick Sampson (Insecure, The Flash) as part of his BLD PWR initiative. Such boldfaced names as Viola Davis, Janelle Monáe, Michael B. Jordan, Billy Porter, and many more joined Sampson's call for the entertainment industry to "prove that Black Lives Matter to Hollywood by taking bold moves to affirm, defend and invest in Black lives."
"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 begins. "Yet, historically and currently, Hollywood encourages the epidemic of police violence and culture of anti-Blackness.
"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," it continues. "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."
The letter's five core demands call for Hollywood to divest from police ("Commit to no police on sets or events or for any other purposes"), divest from anti-Black content, invest in anti-racist content, invest in Black people's careers by giving more power and financial resources to Black artists and executives, and invest in the Black community, including Black-owned businesses.
"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," it concludes.
This call for action comes amid ongoing protests and movements for change after the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and other unarmed Black people by white police officers. Many celebrities, including Jordan, Tessa Thompson, and John Boyega, have joined the protests calling for justice. Sampson was hit by rubber bullets while taking part in a protest in Los Angeles last month.
"Let's #DEFUNDPOLICE and use those resources for alternatives to incarceration, unarmed, non-law-enforcement first responders, mental health care, COVID relief, education, housing - NEW SYSTEMS built on wellness and centering and caring for the most vulnerable in our society," he wrote in an Instagram post at the time.
To help combat systemic racism, please consider donating to these organizations:
- Campaign Zero, which is dedicated to ending police brutality in America through research-based strategies.
- Color of Change, which works to move decision makers in corporations and government to be more responsive to racial disparities.
- Equal Justice Initiative, which provides legal services to people who have been wrongly convicted, denied a fair trial, or abused in state jails and prisons.