Kendrick Sampson, Tessa Thompson, and Black Lives Matter have joined forces to challenge Hollywood’s commitment to change in an open letter that’s already been signed by over 300 of the industry’s finest.
The “Insecure” actor, who has been actively protesting against police brutality in light of the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and countless others, penned the letter. Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors, BLM Los Angeles Chapter co-founder Melina Abdullah and “Westworld” actress Tessa Thompson also were part of the development of the letter.
“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,” the letter reads.
The letter, which calls out Hollywood’s “lack of a true commitment to inclusion and institutional support,” delves into the lack of control and influence that Black people have in the industry — in front of and especially behind the camera, where the majority of the important decisions are made.
“The lack of a true commitment to inclusion and institutional support has only reinforced Hollywood’s legacy of white supremacy,” it reads. “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 green-lighting power.”
Although the industry has made strides in getting more Black faces on-screen, the letter calls out several individual examples of how progress is only happening on a surface level — and not in ways that will result in lasting change, which arguably isn’t progress at all.
“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 hairstylists 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.”
The letter closes with a list of five specific demands for the industry to meet: Divest from the police; Divest from anti-Black content; Invest in anti-racist content; Invest in our careers; Invest in our community.
The full statement and detailed demands have been posted to Sampson’s BLD PWR foundation website, which he founded to harness the “power of narrative activism” as an “effective means to help shape, enhance, and amplify important ideas in grassroots organizing.”