An Open Letter on America’s Mental Health Crisis

Over the past two and a half months, as much of our country has lived in quarantine, we’ve witnessed the violent loss of black lives with disturbing frequency. Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd have died at the hands of racists and law enforcement. Complex Networks recognizes the power of its platforms and is committed to amplifying their stories and the voices of our communities to work for justice.

My dad was born in 1947, about 82 short years after the last slaves in Texas learned they were “free.” He was orphaned, grew up in segregation in the foster “care” system, and didn’t have voting rights when he turned 18 because he is black. It is safe to assume he had poor mental health before he got drafted for Vietnam. Based on what you know about segregation, the gruesome fight for voting rights, and the soldiers who fought in the Vietnam War, think about the trauma that informed his life choices, including how he raised his children.

My father has a whole host of health issues, but he does not acknowledge his mental health and doesn’t trust the systems we have to diagnose them. Considering the way America treats its veterans, the Tuskegee syphilis experiment, Henrietta Lacks, and authorities using schizophrenia diagnoses to invalidate civil rights ideas in the 1960s (as outlined in Jonathan Metzl’s The Protest Psychosis), why would he? Black and indigenous Americans have no reason to trust the genocidal, colonistic systems that were forced on them, but our generational trauma is undeniable.

Compared to my father’s upbringing, and many people in my community, I have had a relatively privileged life. I keep and can afford a healthy diet and exercise, but I haven’t ever been able to sleep.  I’ve been admitted to the emergency room about five times in my adult life, and each time they can’t quite tell me what is wrong. They always tell me it has to do with stress. 

I have dealt with crippling anxiety for a couple of decades, and it manifests itself in different ways. While in quarantine, I’ve mourned the death of a loved one, comforted many grieving in my community or experiencing rough COVID-19 recovery, and dealt with my own financial problems and other personal private problems. This, plus stress accumulated before quarantine, put me in the ER once again after a week of debilitating neck and head pain.  

I know there are millions of people that can relate and don’t have the tools I am privileged to have to cope. I briefly lost my insurance in January due to unfair policies. I fought with my public platform to get it back. I think of the people who can’t. I’m thinking of all those who have lost their jobs and may not have a space to yell and cry in private.

My old acting coach used to say, “Homeless people aren’t simply crazy; they are experiencing their private lives in public.” Think of how we deal with our poor mental health moments in private. Now, think of how many people are losing their privacy due to this crisis.  What makes it worse—our government’s main solution for homelessness, mental illness, and substance abuse is criminalization.  

When we need support, we find punishment. Police are targeting and brutalizing black and brown folks in New York and Los Angeles for “improper social distancing” while handing out masks in white communities.

Black folks are currently experiencing highly disproportionate sickness and death, on top of being quarantined, and seeing the publicized images of the murders of Ahmaud ArberyBreonna TaylorSean ReedGeorge Floyd, and Nina Pop. We will have disproportionate grief, trauma, and funerals. And due to the nature of the American legal system, the problematic stories perpetuated by Hollywood, and a culture founded on violence, this is likely to lead to more criminilization, incarceration, and murder of our loved ones. 

When we need support, we find punishment. Police are targeting and brutalizing black and brown folks in New York and Los Angeles for “improper social distancing” while handing out masks in white communities. The occupant of the White House and his administration have referred to the new coronavirus as the “Chinese virus,” further perpetuating stigmas, stereotypes, and hate crimes against Asian-Americans. 

This quarantine life, paired with this country’s demonization of anything other than white, straight, and wealthy, is guaranteed to exacerbate mental illness. And, according to a Treatment Advocacy Center study, people experiencing mental illness are 16 times more likely to be killed by police.  

There has not been a stretch of history in which law enforcement and the American legal system did not represent abuse and injustice in black, indigenous, and brown communities. Our trauma—our existence—is criminalized. Because there is no true mental health care system, police and prisons are tasked with handling this crisis.

The three biggest jails in America are also our country’s largest psychiatric treatment facilities: Chicago’s Cook County Jail, L.A. County’s Twin Towers, and NYC’s Rikers Island. More than half of the inmates in jails and state prisons have some kind of mental illness. It splits to 55% of men and 73% percent of women. This is an indicator of intersectional layers of oppression. I have seen firsthand the abhorrent, unsanitary conditions of our jails and immigration detention centers. The high-observation wards, where the mentally ill are caged with no access to human resources, make such places much worse than what gets shown on television.

Why does the U.S. imprison its mentally ill?  Why does it rely on the modern-day systems of incarceration and policing that were built to protect elite whites from the people they enslaved and murdered—slave catching and continuation of legal slavery through powers of the 13th Amendment? It’s intentional. It’s justified in the movies we see, the jokes we tell. It’s systemic and cultural. We can go back and forth with theories and facts, but the bottom line is it’s wrong. 

Our trauma—our existence—is criminalized. Because there is no true mental health care system, police and prisons are tasked with handling this crisis.

Instead of criminalizing and demonizing mental illness, we desperately need to repair communities. Let’s establish the first culturally competent health care system in America. We need artists, Hollywood, and community organizers to work together to imagine, demand, and build the culture we deserve.

Our current reality is a mental abuse system. Those who receive available services are met with rising costs, over-medication, and diagnoses that callously ignore the role persistent trauma, environmental racism, gender oppression, transphobia, white supremacy, and capitalism play in it. Liberating our bodies and healing our souls from trauma requires care, not cages.

Now, more than ever, we need a mental health care system that is free or affordable, provides culturally competent mental wellness practitioners, art therapy, and unarmed first responders to the communities being hit hardest by this pandemic, and acknowledges community trauma as a public health issue.

Policymakers will not prioritize our mental health if we don’t demand it. To truly liberate our mental health, we have to heal our communities. We must abolish the systems that were built to put our mental well-being under constant attack and build systems founded in liberation, healing, and wellness.

Systems like our current health care, prison, and police systems, built on capitalism (aka profit) over people and white supremacy, were designed to protect the most able and abusive.  They’re all active opposition to the liberation of our mental health. And, as the successful organizers of JusticeLA say, “No one gets well in a cell.” We need repair. Reparations.  

It can be done. We see hope in examples like the reparations ordinance won five years ago for survivors of police torture in Chicago. It’s not nearly enough. It is just the beginning. The work that the Chicago Torture Justice Center is doing is unprecedented. It is proof that when we fight, we win. We need to demand and expand.  

Mental Health Awareness Month has come to an end, but the attacks on our mental health do not, and neither does our work. We need a Green New Deal of Mental Health. So we at BLD PWR are launching our #LiberateMentalHealth campaign to highlight and collect stories, solutions, and content to fight for the mental health services and liberatory culture and art our communities need.

Let’s demand and fight for the resources continually extracted from our communities. They are ours.  Let’s abolish the systems that target our most vulnerable communities. Let’s build, fund, and expand healing practices that are culturally necessary for our communities. Let’s unearth our buried stories and use our voices, our bodies, our art, and our creativity to radically shift this violently oppressive culture towards care and love of the most vulnerable.

Let’s #LiberateMentalHealth.

Peace and liberation,
Kendrick Sampson

Kendrick Sampson is an actor, activist, and advocate for justice as a co-founder of BLD PWR, a non-partisan, grassroots liberation initiative. He is best known for his roles on The Vampire DiariesThe Flash, and as Nathan on HBO’s Insecure.

Kendrick Sampson Isn’t Afraid to Put His Body on the Line to Get Justice

Breonna Taylor did all the right things. As an essential worker, she clocked long hours as an EMT in Louisville, Kentucky, risking exposure to COVID-19 to help those in need. Taylor, who went by the nickname Breezy, also spent quality time with her mom, little sister and boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, whenever she wasn’t working and dreamed of becoming a nurse someday. Unfortunately, she would never get to realize those dreams. Taylor was killed by Louisville Metro Police, just three months before her 27th birthday.

“She was so young,” says actor Kendrick Sampson, who has been protesting in the streets of Los Angeles for weeks demanding justice for Taylor, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and countless others. “I already felt extremely enraged but more than any other case, I was more angered by the death of Breonna Taylor. She was asleep in her bed and they already caught the suspect earlier in the day.”

I already felt extremely enraged but more than any other case, I was more angered by the death of Breonna Taylor.

Just after midnight on March 13 a group of plainclothes officers banged on Taylor and Walker’s door to serve a no-knock warrant to a suspected drug dealer, and eventually busted it down. Walker, who thought the men were intruders, fired his licensed firearm once. Three LMPD officers shot back — an estimated 20 times — hitting Taylor eight times and killing her.

Sampson, a Houston native who is best known for his role as Nathan on HBO’s hit series Insecure and Caleb on season two of ABC’s How To Get Away with Murder, is the cofounder of BLD PWR (pronounced build power), an organization that works with Black Lives Matter LA and encourages entertainers and athletes to wield their platforms for significant social change. He is also fed up with the types of police violence that ended Breonna Taylor’s life.

“There have been so many,” Sampson continues, rattling off a string of names of victims of police violence. “Sean Reed, transgender man Tony McDade, Atatiana Jefferson, and Sandra Bland. But Breonna’s case shows that all of that force that police used was excessive. They did not need those weapons. They didn’t need them. For what? If they were doing all of that, they didn’t care about the lives inside. What they cared about was securing the drugs no matter what. When we’re valuing drugs over lives, something is wrong.”

No drugs were found in Taylor and Walker’s apartment, and the couple did not have any prior convictions. The three officers involved in the raid were not wearing body cameras and are currently on paid administrative leave. Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer has been slow to respond to protestors’ demands that the officers be fired and criminally charged. But he did fire the city’s police chief, Steve Conrad, because it is a departmental violation not to use body cameras. Conrad was slated to retire at the end of June.

Sampson says protests around the world have worked as a catalyst for change and justice when it comes to cases like that of Taylor and Floyd, who died on March 25 after former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on his neck for nearly 9 minutes. Chauvin and the three other officers involved in Floyd’s death were fired and have been criminally charged.

While people have been pouring into the streets all across the country since video of Floyd’s death went viral, Sampson says his peers in Hollywood can do more to fight for justice and equality.

“Mike de la Rocha, Tia Oso and I co-founded BLD PWR to start building up a liberation culture because we realized how oppressive Hollywood is and how much they’re a part of the problem,” Sampson says. “Black folks are being killed in the streets by police and then brutalized for protesting, in part, because of the images Hollywood perpetuates in the stories we tell and the criminalization of black folks. We have been working to change that culture for a long time.”

For Sampson, this isn’t just about saying all the right things. He’s been participating in protests across Los Angeles and has put his body on the line. In fact, on March 30, he was hit several times with batons and was shot with rubber bullets during a demonstration in the city’s Fairfax District.

“Everyone was being peaceful and nothing warranted that sort of force,” the former star of The Vampire Diaries explains. “My friend has fractured bones in his skull. They brutalized us and every time they shoot you with rubber bullets, it takes several layers of skin off. They wanted to send that message.”

Still, that didn’t stop Sampson and others from flooding the streets again.

“The next day, we were out there again. And the day after that and the day after that and each day the crowds got bigger,” he says. “We are more afraid of being murdered in the streets than being brutalized while exercising our basic human right to protest.”

Days after the violent confrontation with officers, BLMLA and BLD PWR held a resistance-free demonstration in front of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s house. And on June 7, Sampson’s friend and Insecure co-star, Issa Rae, as well as celebs like Michael B. Jordan, peacefully protested in Hollywood alongside him in a march that drew an estimated 100,000 people.

“The reason we got so many people out to protest and knew where to protest and designated clear actions and demands is because of the work that was done in advance every day,” Sampson says. “I’ve been yelling at Eric Garcetti for years. I’m appreciative that people are starting to recognize the movement more and my contributions but this wasn’t overnight. We’ve been putting in the work for years. This is the first time I got shot with rubber bullets but that brought attention to how the system is corrupt at its core.”

A longtime activist, Sampson also says it shouldn’t take senseless deaths to get people’s attention.

“It shouldn’t take a George Floyd or a Breonna Taylor to show the mainstream how they brutalize us in the street for our grief and our trauma,” he says. “I’m grateful to have this platform but that’s not the activism. That’s me being proactive and showing everyone the brutality that I know is at the core of over-policing.”

The death of Floyd, who was also a Houston native, hit closer to home for Sampson. “He could’ve been any member of my family,” he says. “I have a really large family – six brothers and sisters, 22 nephews and nieces. A lot of my relatives are Mexican, a lot of them are black and a lot of them are white. I have racists in my family and liberals. I’ve got the full gamut but I know who is more in danger.”

“I always say I’ll be damned if one of my brothers or sisters or nephews or nieces gets caught up in this mess and brutalized or shot and killed or choked,” he adds. “And ironically enough, I’m the one who got shot seven times with rubber bullets. I’d rather it be me than them.”

Strangely enough, Sampson sees the LAPD’s initial overreaction to protestors as a sign that better days are coming.

“The protest became aggressive and super violent because our movement is working and the police wanted to make an example out of us,” he says. “George Floyd’s murder was a lynching. The system is a bad tree with bad fruit, like Nina Simone’s ‘Strange Fruit’ says. This is still happening. George Floyd didn’t die from a bullet wound. He died because the system encourages brutality.”

But police aren’t the only threat when it comes to participating in a march or protest. The ever-looming presence of COVID-19 could be just as deadly. Despite this, Sampson says showing up is the best way to apply pressure and defund the police.

“We had to get out there. It came to a point where we felt like we were dying anyway,” Sampson explains. “For the most part, people were wearing their masks. But I can’t lie. You see me on the video. I take my mask off. And I do my best to put it on when I can but there are thousands of people. A mask can only do so much.”

michael b jordan hollywood protest

Michael B. Jordan, Kendrick Sampson and others participate in the Hollywood talent agencies march to support Black Lives Matter protests on June 06, 2020.RICH FURYGETTY IMAGES

Globally, protesters are taking to the street to also make their voices heard and Sampson is inspired.

“All over the world, we are fed up,” he says. “Racism doesn’t self-quarantine. Sexism does not self-quarantine. Homophobia and transphobia don’t self-quarantine. These problems didn’t go away because of COVID. They just got worse. People are frustrated. We’re in the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression and the worst health crisis in 100 years.”

Sampson continues, “These are triggers and people, companies and governmental systems are showing their true colors. We’re not getting the relief we need. It’s an attack on our mental health,” he says. “Black people are at home watching as we disproportionately die from COVID, we’re being disproportionately affected economically and the cops are killing us in the street when we finally leave the house. We’re criminalized for wearing masks. We’re criminalized for not wearing our masks. Enough is enough.”

While many have wondered how long the large-scale protests will continue, Sampson urges people to keep showing up — in whatever way they can — to truly change the system.

We have so much more work to do. We have to keep showing up in the streets.

“We have so much more work to do. We have to keep showing up in the streets. We have to keep hashtagging. And we need to pressure Hollywood to make a bold move and get these police officers off of our sets and events and pull away from these police corruption stories that we glorify on the big and small screens,” he says, heeding the call of his fellow activists who have criticized the media’s complicity in pushing “copaganda” (pro-police propaganda).

“There are so many ways that we invest in police departments and we need to stop that from happening,” says Sampson. “If they really valued Black lives, they wouldn’t subject us to so much brutality. As artists, we don’t want to pull up to work and realize we are part of the problem. We need more black creatives and more of us in high places.”

But for Sampson, who has a family full of musicians and studied music and theater at a young age, his art is also his passion. He’s excited about what’s happening on Insecure as season 4 comes to a close and urges fans in the #NathanHive to not count his character out just yet.

He’s also costarring in the new film Miss Juneteenth. Written and directed by Channing Godfrey Peoples, the indie film will hit select theaters and On-Demand June 19. In it Sampson plays Ronnie, the estranged husband of Turquoise Jones, a former beauty queen played by the talented Nicole Beharie, who helps their teenage daughter Kai prepare for the Miss Juneteenth pageant.

Given his commitment to liberation, it’s only fitting that Sampson would costar in this film. Juneteenth is a celebration that marks the day — June 19, 1865 — in which Union Soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas to inform the last of the country’s enslaved black people that they were actually free, more than two years after President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.

“This is definitely a full circle moment for me,” Sampson says about the film. “Juneteenth is my favorite holiday.”

Mekeisha Madden Toby is a Los Angeles-based TV critic, editor, and entertainment journalist. Follow her on Twitter @mekeishamadto.

Kerry Washington and Activist Kendrick Sampson Spoke About Mental Health In the Fight for Racial Justice

Dangerous things strongly linked to cancerPelosi: GOP senators ‘pulled their punch’ on police reformKerry Washington and Activist Kendrick Sampson Spoke About Mental Health In the Fight for Racial Justice

If you’ve been devoting a lot of your time to protesting against racial injustices and participating in the Black Lives Matter movement, taking care of your mental health might be slipping on your list of priorities. It’s understandable—after all, there’s a lot of work to be done in supporting this movement. But Kerry Washington and Kendrick Sampson are reminding you just how important it is to take care of your mental health along the way.Kerry Washington et al. standing next to a woman: "Take care of yourself and then work for justice for others."© Rich Fury/Getty Images/VF20/Getty Images for Vanity Fair “Take care of yourself and then work for justice for others.”

The duo recently got together in an Instagram Live session (which you can still find on Washington’s main feed) for a candid conversation about taking care of yourself as you put in the work to learn about and fight against systemic racism and racial inequality.

The video starts with Washington leading her followers through some guided yoga, complete with deep breathing exercises and stretches. Around the 20-minute mark, she begins her conversation with Sampson. In addition to playing Nathan on the HBO show Insecure, Sampson is the founder of BLD PWR, an organization that encourages Hollywood stars to use their platform to advance radical social change.

Over the past couple of weeks, Sampson has been leading Black Lives Matter protests with BLD PWR in Los Angeles and sharing his experiences from the demonstrations. In a recent tweet, he spoke about being hit with multiple rubber bullets and getting beaten by police with batons. Understandably, the aftermath of these incidents has taken a toll on him mentally, Sampson told Washington. “I was waking up with a lot of adrenaline and wasn’t able to sleep much this week,” he said in the video, adding that he’s been experiencing bouts of anxiety.Kendrick Sampson@kendrick38

Glad I y’all witnessed this. Esp the video of them actually targeting us. He didn’t try to ricochet the bullets of the ground – one tactic – he pointed the gun DIRECTLY AT ME. I actually got hit 7 times with rubber bullets and many with batons. My boy has stitches. #DEFUNDPOLICE

Washington related to Sampson’s feelings of anxiety, noting that mental health in the Black community is particularly impacted by the recent events involving the killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Aubrey, Breonna Taylor, and so many others, not just because of the injustices these deaths represent, but also because of the decades of systemic racism and inequality that the Black community has faced in the U.S. (Related: Tools to Help You Uncover Implicit Bias—Plus, What That Actually Means)

“For marginalized communities, Black folks, indigenous folks, there is generational trauma,” explained Sampson. “There is trauma that hasn’t ever been addressed. We haven’t ever had a point in history where we’ve been able to deal with the trauma of slavery, genocide, and such.”

It doesn’t end there, continued Sampson. Jim Crow laws (and the racial segregation they enforced), the prison industrial complex, and policing have all been a “continuation of that legacy” of systemic racism, which has led to generations of trauma, he said. “[This type of generational trauma] informs the way we raise our kids,” he added. “It informs the way we have our interpersonal relationships, how we deal with other communities.”

There’s no denying that, compared to white people, BIPOC folks experience an increased rate of mental health concerns, including anxiety and depression, according to an article from Thomas A. Vance, Ph.D., a mental health clinician at Concierge Psychology and psychology teaching fellow at The New School for Social Research. In part, this disparity is “related to the lack of access to appropriate and culturally responsive mental health care, prejudice, and racism inherent in the daily environment of Black individuals,” in addition to the generations of trauma already inflicted on the Black community, wrote Vance. “Moreover, given that the Black community exists at the intersection of racism, classism, and health inequity, their mental health needs are often exacerbated and mostly unfulfilled,” he explained. (Related: How Racism Affects Your Mental Health)

In his conversation with Washington, Sampson speaks to Vance’s sentiment about the lack of proper mental healthcare for Black individuals: “[There] hasn’t ever been a culturally competent, trauma-informed mental healthcare system or even a system of practices that is cultural and accepted and encouraged in our communities,” shared Sampson.

Unsurprisingly, high-profile police killings of Black individuals often exacerbate these existing mental health issues. Research suggests that police killings can have a measurable, population-level impact on the mental health of Black Americans. More recent data gathered by the online student learning platform, StuDocu showed that, in a survey of over 100 adults aged 18-32 (including BIPOC and white people), nearly 60 percent said that their mental health has been impacted by recent racial tensions in the U.S.

Bottom line: The fight for racial justice is an important one, but there’s no doubt it can also be mentally draining, especially for the Black community. With that in mind, it’s crucial to treat this fight as a marathon, Washington said in her video with Sampson. “Getting this country to where it needs to be is not going to happen overnight,” she explained. “So we have to be taking care of ourselves in the process.” (Related: Kerry Washington Made a Brilliant Comparison Between Therapy and Personal Training)

Sampson shared that he’s been working closely with his doctors in taking care of his mental health: “My main things are making sure I get a little bit of sun, making sure I get a little bit of fresh air if I can, eating properly, getting electrolytes, water, nourishing myself,” he said. “I do therapy at least once a week. Now I’m going to try and up it to twice a week.” (Here’s how to find the best therapist for you.)

Sampson also said he finds it helpful to be part of the BLD PWR community, where he can surround himself with people who support him. “Being with a community that accepts you for who you are, understands you, can hold you accountable—a lot of the time, that’s a great place to express your rage,” he told Washington.

Ending the conversation, Washington reminded viewers to prioritize their wellbeing not just now, but consistently as they continue participating in this movement. “Please, everybody, take care of yourself and then work for justice for others,” she said. “Do both, because the justice work will make you feel better, and feeling better will make you a better freedom fighter.”

To support BLD PWR, head over to its website to donate.

If you or anyone you know in the Black community has been struggling with their mental health, here are a few resources that could help:

Black Emotional and Mental Health Collective (BEAM)

Black Mental Health Alliance

Black Mental Wellness

The Loveland Foundation

Therapy for Queer People of Color

How Filmmaker Tommy Oliver Captured Hollywood’s Massive June Protest

Black filmmaker Tommy Oliver could not just sit back and watch the rallies for George Floyd. As a filmmaker, he knew the importance of his platform and the power of the media. “The power to inspire, the power to incite, the power to challenge,” is what Oliver says compelled him to go out and capture the power of the protests and document the images.

Without a press pass, he was on the frontlines taking photos of the June 7 protests, aware that he was putting himself in front of police and amidst crowds in the middle of a pandemic.

Oliver, producer of “The Perfect Guy,” and co-creator of “Black Love” talks about his widely-shared Hollywood Boulevard photo and what it was like being on the ground.

Tell me about capturing this photo and what that meant to you personally.

I had the good fortune to be on the truck leading the protest, which happened because Kendrick Sampson, co-founder of BLD PWR (one of the two groups that organized the protest), is a friend who was leading the rally from the truck and he was ok with me getting a ride.

Eventually, the truck stopped midway between Highland and Orange on Hollywood Blvd. as the sea of protesters literally ran for as far as the eye could see. Janaya “Future” Khan got on the mic and asked for signs to be lowered and fists raised in a show of solidarity unlike any I’ve ever seen in my life — 50,000-plus strong, all unified. I snapped a few pics from the bed of the truck and realizing the magnitude of what was happening, I climbed from the bed of the truck to the roof and quickly snapped a few from up there.

Why was it important for you as a filmmaker to go out there and document this?

I had to. For me, the idea of having the ability to do something positive in any way, shape or form, I just needed to be there. I wasn’t going there to document it. I just wanted to take my camera.

Some people were capturing it, but a lot was happening that people weren’t seeing in the way it should be captured. You’d see images from Getty or the AP and you’d see that they were looking for shots for the sake of shots. There was so much more to what was happening. People were fighting and potentially putting themselves in harm’s way because there was the risk of catching coronavirus. There’s a strength in that and there’s a beauty in that which needed to be seen.

What was it like being out there as a non-journalist facing the possibility of police brutality?

The people who came before me and were fighting went through so much worse. The idea of something might happen where I’d be hit by a rubber bullet or a baton and I’d be deterred by that, that was never an issue. I owe it to everybody who had fought and died before me.

It was not a choice. I had to be out there. I’m never going to intentionally put my family in harm’s way, but it was a time for me to potentially make a change.

Did you ever feel/experience a moment when you felt were in danger?

While on Ocean Avenue in Santa Monica, the National Guard told a few hundred of us we had two minutes to disperse or we’d all be arrested. We could see from our vantage point they had already started throwing gas on the other side of their barricade and we heard reports there had been shots fired somewhere in Santa Monica. Now couple that with the fact that I have a wife who was already afraid for me to be out because of both Covid-19 and the potential for violence, three boys under the age of 4 at home, and 20 employees I’m responsible to, a lot goes through your head very quickly in those situations. Despite the very real possibility for danger and additional calls to disperse, none of the protesters left — an absolutely beautiful show of support.

How important is it to use our platforms to inspire change?

The reason I’m in entertainment is that I believe in its trans-formative power. The power to inspire, the power to incite, the power to challenge.

That said, change doesn’t happen by sitting by and we have a commitment to the next generation as a duty to pay for those who fought, bled, and died to get us to where we are today. I’ve seen and experienced far too many instances of systemic racism in my life, in this business and out of it, to merely watch from the sidelines and if there’s something I can do to make it better but I don’t, then I don’t deserve whatever platform I may have.

Source: Variety