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Following Tuesday night’s historic sports strike — which started with the Milwaukee Bucks boycotting their playoff game in solidarity with police shooting victim Jacob Blake — Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors is making a call for similar action in Hollywood.
“I think it’s time for talent, writers, executives, the guild and SAG to show up for Black lives as well,” Cullors, a writer on Freeform’s Good Trouble, tells The Hollywood Reporter. “Join this strike. Now is the time and our movement is really looking to unions to step in in a particular way and say ‘We’re going to hold back on allowing for the exploitation and the degradation of Black communities to continue under our watch.’ I think Hollywood can really show up in this moment. While I understand not everyone can take the same risks, there is power and opportunity in developing a strategy and plan that centers the dignity of Black communities. That may mean a one-day strike or it may mean a day of educating Hollywood on what’s been happening to Black folks. Now is an opportunity for all of us to be bold and courageous.”
Cullors says she and others in the BLM movement are in talks with some talent to see what kind of protest is possible, in a way that will continue the momentum started after George Floyd’s police killing in May.
“People are tired of having to say the same thing over and over again, and not seeing the change that we deserve from either party, frankly,” she says. “I think the work that we’re up against right now is to ensure that we can get Trump out of office, but also ensure that we can get the Democratic Party to truly create policies that will make sure that Black people are protected from vigilantes and from police torture.”
When news spread on Sunday, Aug. 23, that another Black man — this time Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin — had been shot seven times by a police officer, the cultural reactions were swift. The NBA led the sports strike, starting with the Bucks, before expanding to the MLB, WNBA, NHL and MLS. TNT’s Inside the NBA co-host Kenny Smith walked off in the middle of Tuesday’s show, removing his mic pack as he said, “As a black man, as a former player, I think it’s best for me to support the players and not be here tonight.” Many sports anchors and talking heads turned their shows into discussions of race, many fueled by personal experience.
Hollywood has also echoed the outrage over the shooting of Blake — who survived the shooting and is now paralyzed — with Kenosha-native Mark Ruffalo tweeting “There is a dark sickness in this country. It’s on display for all of us to see with our own eyes.” Kendrick Sampson posted that he is “exhausted and traumatized from marching, yelling and working to liberate us.” And Dwayne Johnson delayed his Under Armour product launch with a note that it’s “unbelievable we’re here again.” Others have supported the sports strike, with Watchmen’s Yahya Abdul-Mateen II tweeting “this is courage” and Colin Hanks commending the Bucks for their “so impressive” protest. E! Daily Pop co-host Justin Sylvester also walked off the remote set of Wednesday’s show “to stand in solidarity with Jacob Blake, Breonna Taylor and Elijah McClain.”
Travis Merriweather, political specialist for ICM, says, “In response to the shooting of Jacob Blake, it’s important to encourage Americans to channel our anger and pain into strategic, organized action to demand systemic reforms and bring the collective power of our voices from protests to the polls,” with the agency’s politics arm working to combat voter suppression, matching employee donations to racial justice organizations and assisting clients with their activism.
“What’s happening now across entertainment is part of the extended legacy of people with large platforms participating in social revolutions,” adds actor Matt McGorry, co-founder of social-impact group Inspire Justice. “Now more than ever, we must support the leadership of Black women in this moment who are often erased from our narratives. From the co-founders of Black Lives Matter to the WNBA players protesting across the country, the calls for a divestment from police and prisons and reinvestment in nonviolent forms of addressing safety are ringing loud and clear.”
Aug. 28, 1:25 p.m.: Updated to include clarification from Cullors.
Sept. 2, 8:30 a.m.: Updated with quotes from Merriweather and McGorry
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