The entertainment industry has always had close ties with law enforcement, but with talent calling for a clean break, those bonds are more fraught than ever: “It’s just standing up for what we all know is not correct.”
In the weeks leading up to June 23, Kendrick Sampson was sleeping at most five hours a night and marching in a Black Lives Matter protest every other day.
At one rally in Los Angeles, he was hit by the police’s rubber bullets multiple times. Undeterred, the actor best known for playing Issa Rae’s love interest on HBO’s Insecure crafted a letter addressed to Hollywood’s power brokers: “We demand that Hollywood divest from police.”
With the help of Thor: Ragnarok‘s Tessa Thompson, he corralled a group of such A-listers as Michael B. Jordan, Viola Davis and Idris Elba to sign the open letter that blamed the entertainment industry and mainstream media for having “contributed to the criminalization of Black people, the misrepresentation of the legal system, and the glorification of police corruption and violence [that] has had dire consequences on Black lives,” and released it June 23.
“It’s not just a statement or a post,” he tells The Hollywood Reporter. “We need people holding these entities accountable. It’s about changing the way Hollywood operates.”
Sampson’s missive wasn’t the only one that week to address the industry’s long-standing relationship with the police. Four days earlier, on Juneteenth, a group of actors and artists including Sterling K. Brown, Gabrielle Union and Lee Daniels called on the industry to “break ties with the police” and demanded that cultural institutions, including studios and theaters, “publicly condemn the institution of police as a violent force that exists to further class divisions and capitalistic exploitation, which harm our communities.”
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