By Ruth Kinane
June 04, 2020 at 09:49 AM EDT
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Meghan Markle is using her voice to speak out about police brutality and racism following the death of George Floyd.

On Thursday, the Duchess of Sussex shared a video message to the graduating class of her former high school, Immaculate Heart High School, congratulating them on their success, but also using the platform to address systemic racism, draw attention to the current protests taking place across the country, and share her own experience as a biracial woman growing up in California.

Credit: ABC News

"Graduating class of 2020, for the past couple of weeks, I've been planning on saying a few words to you for your graduation and as we all have seen over the past few weeks, what is happening in our country and in our state and in our hometown of L.A. has been absolutely devastating," she began. "And I wasn't sure what I could say to you. I wanted to say the right thing. And I was really nervous that I wouldn’t, or that it would get picked apart, and I realized — the only wrong thing to say is to say nothing."

Markle's speech comes 10 days after Floyd, a black man in Minneapolis, died after an officer held his knee to Floyd's neck for several minutes. The incident was caught on video by multiple bystanders and released across social media, leading to an intense response across the U.S. and beyond.

"George Floyd's life mattered, and Breonna Taylor's life mattered, and Philando Castile's life mattered, and Tamir Rice's life mattered, and so did so many other people whose names we know and whose names we don't know," continued the former actress. "Stephon Clark. His life mattered."

Markle then shared how sorry she is that these teenagers have to grow up in a world where this is still present, before going on to recall her memories of living in Los Angeles during the riots after the 1992 death of Rodney King at the hands of police, drawing comparisons between King and Floyd's deaths. "I was 11 or 12 years old when I was just about to start IHMS (Immaculate Heart Middle School) in the fall and it was the L.A. riots, which were also triggered by a senseless act of racism," she said. "I remember the curfew and I remember rushing back home and and on that drive home seeing ash fall from the sky and smelling the smoke — and seeing the smoke billow out of buildings and seeing people run out buildings and looting and seeing men in the back of the van just holding guns and rifles. I can’t imagine that.. you would have to have a different version of that same type of experience. That’s something you should have an understanding of — but an understanding of as a history lesson, not as your reality."

The duchess ended her address on a hopeful note, assuring the graduates that she knows they will go on to be leaders and use their voices for good. "You are going to use your voice in a stronger way than you have ever been able to, because most of you are 18, or you’re going to turn 18, so you’re going to vote," she said. "You are going to have empathy for those who don’t see the world through the same lens that you do — because with as diverse, vibrant and opened-minded as I know the teachings at Immaculate Heart are, I know you know that black lives matter. You are equipped, you are ready, we need you, and you’re prepared."

Watch the full address in the tweet above.

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.

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