In an emotional and passionate speech rallying support for the Black Lives Matter movement in London, Star Wars star John Boyega has joined the ranks of celebrities protesting the latest wave of police brutality. On Wednesday, June 3, 2020 Boyega seized a megaphone to speak to protestors against institutionalized racism in Hyde Park.
“Black Lives have always mattered! We have always been important! We have always meant something! We have always succeeded regardless!” declares Boyega, his voice choking up with tears. “I need you to understand how painful it is to be reminded every day that your race means nothing! And that isn’t the case anymore! That is never the case anymore! We are a physical representation of our support for George Floyd. We are a physical representation of our support for Sandra Bland.”
George Floyd, Sandra Bland, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor are only among the latest victims of police brutality. Their murders have sparked dialogues on systemic racism and protests demanding justice worldwide. Many are frustrated on behalf of these victims and the repeated failures of the justice system. Boyega is not the first celebrity to use social media to support the Black Lives Matter movement, but his sincere speech at the rally goes beyond performative activism.
“I’m speaking to you from my heart. Look, I don’t know if I’m gonna have a career after this,” confesses Boyega. “But fuck that. This today is about innocent people who were halfway through their process. We don’t know what George Floyd could’ve achieved. We don’t know what Sandra Bland could’ve achieved.” Boyega stresses his priorities by risking his stardom to speak out in support for Black Lives Matter. As an actor in an industry that has historically failed to be inclusive, his concerns are valid. The film industry has often denied minorities opportunity as well as fumble their representation. It was only earlier this year that Joker star Joaquin Phoenix called out the systemic racism in Hollywood at the Bafta Film Awards.
It is important to note how Boyega included the experience of being black itself in his address. Unlike many hollow statements of support from performative activists, he spoke directly from his very own experience of being black. His speech transformed a political protest into a very emotionally charged and human demand for justice. His words demonstrated the real pain felt by everyone in the black community. Black Lives Matter is more than just the movement of the moment, it is a reminder to protect a disenfranchised people.
“You are important,” Boyega began to conclude. “Your individual power, your individual right is very, very important. We can all join together to make this a better world. We can all join together to make this special.” It seems his words inspired not only support at the rally but also from members of the film industry. “We got you, John,” tweeted Jordan Peele, Oscar award-winning director of Get Out. Black Mirror creator Charlie Brooker wrote, “I would crawl through a barrel of broken glass to have John Boyega even so much as glance at one of my scripts.” Matthew A. Cherry, director of the Sony short film Hair Love tweeted: “I would work with John Boyega and I urge other Non-Black creators to affirm that they have his back as well.” Director and producer Elizabeth Banks retweeted Cherry stating, “Would be honored.”
Boyega took to Instagram to express his thanks for all the support, humbly refusing praise for his words. In the same genuine spirit of his speech he writes, “Our individual pursuits of success and belonging remain, but now more than ever, it’s important to use this movement as fuel to inspire new ways of thinking, building, and growing, together.”
I hope more celebrities use their voices to bring about awareness and positive change.