June 30, 2020
As calls for police reform and racial equality echo from nearly every industry, a coalition of artists and executives are demanding change in Hollywood.
After his own recent run-in with officers at a protest for George Floyd in Los Angeles, actor Kendrick Sampson is driving a movement for the entertainment industry to divest from the police. Now is the time for Hollywood to begin investing in Black lives, he said.
"We want to stand in solidarity with other institutions that have divested from police," said Sampson. "One way is to just reimagine how we think about safety in Hollywood."
He, along with actress Tessa Thompson, and Black Lives Matters leaders Patrisse Cullors and Melina Abdullah developed the letter demanding the industry make changes that "have the power to change Black lives in America." More than 300 artists and executives have signed on.
Sampson's concern for the safety of Black workers in Hollywood isn't just limited to physical safety but emotional and mental safety as well.
"We don't need militarized cops with guns on our sets, especially if you want to honor Black creatives, Black crew, and the brutality they've experienced, especially during COVID-19," he told Cheddar.
While calls for equality have only recently been amplified due to tragic police slayings of unarmed Black Americans, it's been an ongoing battle in the industry, Sampson explained.
"Hollywood was founded with misogyny and anti-Blackness at its core and it continues to operate in that way. And so you have to call out the foundation. You have to call out the problematic way that it operates and oppression it perpetuates and that it was designed to do such, in order to change things," he said.
Divesting from police, for Sampson, means production companies and studios could use those funds to tell more Black stories, fund large scale projects, and hire Black executives.
"Acknowledging Hollywood's participation in the problem is the first step and then becoming actively anti-racist and putting black people in positions of power where we have control over our own narrative," he explained.
For an industry rooted in dated social norms, change has to be instituted at its foundation, Sampson said, beginning with very basic training.
"The same way we want people to be safe physically from heavy machinery and electrical equipment, anti-racism is a part of the safety training I believe," he said.