Black Lives Matter: In the Words of Oprah Winfrey, Ciara, Lizzo and Other Stars

More than just words: Oprah Winfrey, John Boyega, Ciara and countless other stars share their personal stories behind the all-important message.

von Sarah Grossbart Feb 01, 2021 08:00Tags
Weitere: Black Lives Matter Protests That Are Changing The World

Black Lives Matter. 

They are words you've no doubt seen stamped all over the Internet. A simple phrase, meaning, quite directly, that the lives of Black people matter. That they need to be protected, cherished, respected, not systematically targeted or shattered. 

An idea so straightforward, yet it's one of the most hotly debated across dinner tables, news panels and your social media feed, with responses such as "all lives matter" being bandied about. 

Which, of course, is the point. All lives do and should matter, but it's the Black ones that are historically under attack, as the death of George Floyd last summer once again made painfully clear. 

Many a metaphor has been employed to illustrate this. In a 2019 Harper's Bazaar piece entitled, "Why You Need to Stop Saying 'All Lives Matter;'" academic, writer and lecturer Rachel Cargle explained, "If a patient being rushed to the ER after an accident were to point to their mangled leg and say, 'This is what matters right now,' and the doctor saw the scrapes and bruises of other areas and countered, 'but all of you matters,' wouldn't there be a question as to why he doesn't show urgency in aiding that what is most at risk?"

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Inspiring Moments from Black Lives Matter Protests

Continued Cargle, "At a community fundraiser for a decaying local library, you would never see a mob of people from the next city over show up angry and offended yelling, 'All libraries matter!'—especially when theirs is already well-funded. This is because there is a fundamental understanding that when the parts of society with the most pain and lack of protection are cared for, the whole system benefits."

Amy Sussman/E! Entertainment/NBCU Photo Bank

Nor does saying that Black lives matter mean that other causes are being tossed aside, as E!'s Nina Parker reasoned, explaining why she remained flummoxed by the "All lives matter" messaging that continued to flood her social media feed. "It's insane to me," she said in a June Daily Pop discussion, "because...if we're marching for AIDS, there aren't people coming in with posters that say, 'What about cancer?'"

It's long past time to listen to those at the forefront of this years-old movement. As we embark on another Black History Month, countless voices are offering their views on why it's so important that we all spend the next 28 days (and beyond) educating ourselves. And they're spotting us the first lesson by sharing their lived experiences. Read their takes, absorb, learn. 

Nelly

"Black History Month is always important for measuring our past challenges, our progress and our changes—2021 is even more important with the world's eyes on the injustices towards people like Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and Mike Brown as well and many more. We all need to use the momentum we have right now to show that diversity and inclusion are beautiful and need to be valued by each one of us as we continue to strive to make positive change; my advocacy starts at home in St. Louis and using my platforms for positive change."

Saweetie

"Black music. Black hair. Black culture. Black history. There is so much wealth that comes out of the Black community and it deserves to be celebrated not just this month but all year round. I am so proud to have both a Black family and Filipino one, and I'm happy to have a platform where I can share how beautiful that diverse background can be—especially for all the little girls out there who are made to feel the opposite about who they are. It's 2021 and yet we are still dealing with the same issues that my parents, grandparents, and more have dealt with. It's discouraging sometimes but I'm even more proud to see all the work that this generation is putting in to change up the conversation and protest that Black Lives Matter. Activism comes in many forms and it's only through that kind of hard work will we see things get better."

Oprah Winfrey

"I do not know a black man, period, who has not been profiled. I do not know a black man who has not been stopped at some point—including Stedman Graham....There's no black mother that hasn't had the conversation with their son about making the adaption to when you're stopped, having the right demeanor and behavior and going into that. Whatever is necessary to keep yourself alive."

Jeremih

"I'm inspired everyday to embrace my gift of musicianship because of individuals like Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson, Aretha Franklin and others who have paved the way for African Americans to have better opportunities in the music industry. I'm incredibly grateful for their contributions, and all the work they have done. I'm reminded every day, but especially during Black History Month, how important it is that we continue to work hard and shed light on unity and equality;  so that our children, and people all around the world are left with a legacy of love and hope."

Mykal-Michelle

"Although February is when they say we celebrate Black history, I'm Black so we celebrate every day. But I know that it is a chance to see people of color who look like me and celebrate our heritage. When I think of heroes of color that come to my mind, I think of Mr. Tyler Perry because he started out as not having lots but he never stopped dreaming and now he has one of the biggest studios  and that's like...wow—mind blowing to me! I love Mr. Chadwick Boseman because he showed me that even though he was sick, he kept pushing and it led to little girls like me seeing him work so hard even when behind the scenes he was very sick.

Lastly, my she-ro is Ms. Kamala Harris. She is the very first woman of color in one of the highest offices in our country. Like really, do you know what that says to me?  It says it may be hard and it may take a long time but I can do all things that God allows—not anyone else. These people and many others make Black history for me EVERYDAY not just February! Because of them, I know I can!"

Kane Brown

"A lot of people assume when they first see me that I'm a rapper. It's surprising to them that I am a country artist. And, why is that? I am from Georgia, I grew up listening to country music. Charley Pride is someone I admire, he broke so many barriers. I think it's a powerful thing to hopefully be able to change someone's mind or broaden what they think something needs to be just by being who you are. "

En Vogue

"After coming out of a revealing year like 2020, where so much of our underlying 'race' issues as a nation were brought to the forefront, it uncovered just how much more healing we still need to do. During Black History month 2021, as we celebrate our culture past and present, we will reflect on the difficulty that a pandemic brought to many people, especially Black people here in America. We will reflect on the death of George Floyd that was a catalyst for people to once again demand an end to police brutality of Black citizens. We'll remember how Black Lives Matter wasn't just a movement by Black people for Black people, but a protest by many nationalities demanding that police treat Black citizens like they really matter."

Chaka Khan

"Black history is a major part of American history and its celebration shouldn't be relegated to one month. This past year with the Black Lives Matter movement, many cultures united for one major cause—EQUALITY!!! It reminds me of what I fought for as a young girl in the Black Panther movement and it continues to shed light on what the American and world culture should be: "One Nation Under God with Liberty and Justice for All." This year has shattered the glass ceiling of an old white male American tradition—ushering in our first female Madame Vice President Kamala Harris. Change is on the horizon!"

Lizzo

"The people that don't see it don't want to see it. I don't have sympathy for people who don't see it anymore. Black people are tired. We are so tired. I'm tired of putting myself in danger, It's not danger from the protesters, [it's] danger from the police who don't value me. Danger of the white supremacist groups who are shooting at people, who are running people over with their cars. How do we not see where the issue is? Why is everyone being so—in the media—political?

This isn't a political issue. The issue is in politics, but it's not a political issue. It's so much deeper than politics. It's in the veins of this country...there is racism running through its veins....I still love my blackness. I still love your blackness. I still believe that everybody's life matters. But until we start treating each life equally and respecting each life equally, we gotta say Black Lives Matter. I hope that everybody can just really see this s--t for what it is. Open your mind, open your heart, listen, believe."

Ciara

"My sweet Baby Boy. I pray that when you get older A CHANGE will finally have come!! I'm going to keep my FAITH! I'm praying that the losses of our Black Kings and Queens won't be in vain. Enough is Enough! I'm praying for UNITY! I'm praying for the powers that be to unite and decide that it's time for a change!"

Meagan Good

"Black History month, to me, especially in 2021 is a shedding of light, a beautiful celebration of what we've accomplished and an illuminating realization of how far we have to go. Yes we still have a lot of work to do but I'm thankful for the growth I've been able to experience and take part in. I am humbled to be young enough and old enough to truly understand the mountain and shoulders on which we stand.

I am honored to be a Black Woman. I am honored that even though I've been in entertainment for 30 years and I've had to fight for just about everything I'm still thankful for my journey because it means so much more when I see myself or my sisters win. I am thankful for this time in history…as painful as all of it has been, God deemed it necessary to get to today. No matter what we face…we rise."

Reign Edwards

"I remember when I was in elementary school, I was always excited for Black History Month. I was so excited to learn more about people that looked like me. Looking back on it, I realize that I was simply excited to talk about at school what my mother talked about at home. I was filled with high self-esteem as I wrote essays and/or gave presentations on leaders and pioneers of Black history because I saw who I could be. I saw that I was capable of greatness. Through these stories I was taught that I have greatness within me. I loved Black History Month because it was a time where talking about Blackness out loud and proudly was celebrated. 

Black History Month serves as a motivation and a reminder to me of the hope I have that one day little Black girls and little Black boys wouldn't have 'to look forward' to being celebrated. That they wouldn't have to wait for that one month out of the year. That they'd be celebrated in the here and now. In the everyday."

Marcus Scribner

"Black History is a year-round celebration. To me, it is a celebration of all of the beauty, inventions, and culture my people have brought into this world. Whether people like it or not, we are trendsetters. Black folks are creatives and intellects. We strive for excellence in everything we do. Black History Month is a moment in time for the world to stop and take heed of what we've done. But we, as Black people, celebrate that year-round. As a young Black man, this month represents hope, love, and progress. I hope that one day I can make my mark on Black history and join the amazing trendsetters that came before me."

Cherie Johnson

"Black History Month for me is a time for educators across America to educate our youth on the true history of this country. Not his story that has been systematically placed in our schools curriculum to play on the self-esteem of brown children. Teaching the truth, teaches empathy. When empathy is taught in the classrooms, the children who are not taught it in their homes will gain the knowledge and the power not to repeat unjust behaviors. Through education our youth will keep their peers accountable to any wrong doings and in return will bring equality."

Mignon

"I look at the world and I see the resilience of the African Diaspora. We have endured various traumas and genocides, but still we rise. We not only survived atrocity after atrocity, we thrive in the face of it through arts, culture, politics, and scientific innovation. For the past few years, Black women have created more businesses than any other group, myself being one of them. Black women are primarily to thank for the swing in the past few pivotal elections and created hashtags and movements that will forever change the course of history in this country alone. Black girl magic—literally. 

The fight for equality isn't about the large stage or platforms. It's in the everyday commonplace moments. Defend a Black man or woman when you see small injustices. For example, if you're waiting to be helped and you know they came before you, but for some reason they aren't addressed, speak up and say, 'Actually I believe s/he was here first.' It's the seemingly small indignities and microaggressions that we have to endure day to day that build on the collective trauma we have faced. You stepping up in this small way is one less brick on the pile of inequality."

Delroy Lindo

"I have an unerring faith in our young people; young folks of my son's generation who'll carry the baton of resistance and progress forward, as evidenced by the Black Lives Matter movements, for example. BLM is an exquisite and very necessary contemporary expression of an historical continuum. A sociopolitical and cultural response to, and rejection of, status quo. And as the parent of an African American man child, I'm compelled to be optimistic for the future, whilst simultaneously being very clear-eyed about the nature of the struggle that will continue. Africa-descended peoples have survived and flourished historically, in the face of barbaric violations. And history, likewise, demonstrates that ultimately, we will continue to flourish, no matter what. I have faith, take pride in and believe in that."

Ayesha Curry

"Growing up @jamaicanglamma always said "who cyaah hear muss feel" (who can't hear must feel). I knew what she was saying but the words didn't resonate as much as they do right now. How much more is it going to take to value, hear, listen, understand, appreciate and uphold black lives without people inevitably having to take some sort of action?! It's sickening. Past the point of trying to talk it out (it's been centuries)... my heart is heavy and praying for the family of #georgefloyd and families of the thousands of other #blacklives lost because of senseless barbaric acts that have occurred and reprehensibly continue to. I can't wrap my head around what is supposed to be our leadership amongst other things. The fact that his actions and words don't surprise us appalls me on the daily. Saying a prayer for humanity today and always. Hoping for change."

Bevy Smith

"Representation matters, we all want to be seen, heard, acknowledged. I know I did as a little girl growing up in Harlem. It warms my heart each time a young Black girl or woman comes up to me and says that seeing me on TV gives them hope, inspires them. That's the way I felt watching Kiki Sheppard on Showtime At The Apollo. I'm proud to continue the cultural legacy of Black women on television."

Mickey Guyton

"Black history is something I'm really passionate about. When you learn the complexities of the deep and systemic racism in this country, that has gone on for centuries, it makes reform that much more apparent and urgent. I've never been more proud to be a Black woman and I will continue to be as vocal as I can with sharing my truth. As I think that's the only way we can create change and heal as a society."

John Boyega

"Black lives have always mattered. We have always been important. We have always meant something. We have always succeeded regardless. And now is the time. I ain't waiting. I ain't waiting. Every Black person understands and realizes the first time you are reminded that you are black. You remember. Every Black person in here remembers when another person reminded you that you were Black. I need you guys to understand how painful this s--t is. 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."

Jamie Foxx

"I think that what you saw on television, to watch this man plead for his life....As I sit with my two daughters, my nephews...what it does is, it over-complicates everything as a black man trying to tell his son or his daughter how to function in life. Even the things that we've taught them don't seem to work."

 

Camrus Johnson

"One of the best moments of my life was mere seconds after I spoke at a Black Lives Matter protest in Vancouver last year. I finally got some things off my chest in front of thousands of people, saying how although life is and has always been unfair for black people that we're starting to make the world fair for us, and as I was leaving the mic a swarm of other speakers and friends embraced me and whispered in my ear while I cried that we've got this. That we're here for each other. That we'll make the world fair, together. And we will. 

To be Black means to be a natural born warrior, because even when we don't realize it, we are always fighting. Fighting for fairness, fighting for what's right, fighting for equality, fighting for our rightful place. I'm honored to be Black, because to stand here today and have a successful career and happy laugh means that my parents and my parent's parents never stopped fighting a day in their lives so that I could."

Maisie Richardson-Sellers

"To me, Black history means pride, joy, resilience and strength. The more I learn about those who walked before me, the more deeply humbled and inspired I am. There is such an incredible wealth of narratives we have to offer, and yet Black creatives are too often sidelined, dismissed, or have their stories told for them. Diversity is not only important in front of the camera, we need to actively push for increased representation at every stage of the creative process in order to ensure that we have complex, powerful, diverse stories being created from a place of experience.

When I co-wrote and directed my first short film, Sunday's Child, it was incredibly important to me that those telling the story reflected the story being told. The story follows a young, queer, woman of color as she journeys towards self acceptance. All of our department heads were women of color, and our crew was 80 percent women of color. Creating in this environment was so deeply refreshing and empowering, and the nuances and understanding that each person brought with them greatly elevated the piece."

Rachel Lindsay

"We are tired of black people being reduced to a face on a t-shirt and a hashtag. It's inhumane. We have been protesting peacefully for decades to no avail. We have protested in the most peaceful and respectful way such as simply taking a knee; and even that was heavily criticized. This is why Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. stated that 'rioting is the language of the unheard.' We have not been seen. We have not been heard. We have not been valued. We have not been respected. We have not been treated equally."

Nicole Byer

"A good way to explain to kids #blacklivesmatter: 'you like this black lady right? She's silly? She makes you tee hee hee? You would be sad if a police officer hurt her right? Well this is the current country we live in where someone you like can be hurt by the color of their skin and people in charge aren't doing a f--king (you can replace that with dang if ya kids are soft) thing about it. So they are protesting, and the looters... well some of it is staged as a distraction some are opportunistic and some are people who've been oppressed for so long it bursts. And nice cops? There are no nice cops because if a cop was nice they wouldn't watch and participate in violence against black and brown people. If cops were really nice they would have spoken out about police brutality years ago and maybe walked out on their precincts to send a message that they are against this. Instead they dress up like your GI Joe doll and are very mean. The curfews the helicopters the police in riot gear is all because black people have asked to not be killed... that's it. There's literally nothing else to it. Now once a week let's read about s--t (stuff for the soft kids) that happens to black people that doesn't get covered in schools like Juneteenth, black Wall Street, how black people have influenced most of pop culture today and aren't credited or it's just co-oped... and if you do this post about. Post about the black history you teach your white kid to maybe inspire another white parent to do the same thing."

Victor Cruz

"I had the most difficult conversation with my daughter about the color of her skin last night. How there are people in this world that will dislike you solely because of your race and background. Without ever knowing your story or struggles. Could tell she was a bit confused at first but she nodded in agreement right before falling asleep. I nodded in sadness as she slept. This is America."

Will Catlett

"Across this great country I see many faces, some full of joy and some lost in despair. There are many things to say, but less is spoken. If you speak too loud, you will piss off your neighbor. If you say nothing at all, then we suffer the cost. What do I say about the fight for equality? Why is it a fight? When we separate people by months or seasons, we miss the beauty of unity. Love never argued about its color. It has always lived above."

Travis Scott

"As I pace around, thinking, trying to find something to ease the pain...there are almost no words that I can think of to properly express, or I can use to suppress, this enraged feeling of us continuously losing our brothers and sisters to brutality at the hands of officers, or anyone with misguided intentions for our well-being. The rage that we are all feeling is from direct personal experience and the constant pain of wanting our voices to be heard. To be seen as equal and human, too. We have to change and reform police policy in our U.S. cities, and there needs to be accountability immediately! Especially when officers abuse their power to the point where it callously takes a life."

Nick Cannon

"When you see a police officer, you're supposed to feel safe. They're supposed to protect you. My kids are scared of police officers. In their minds, they're the bad guys. This is clearly the problem. What happened to George Floyd has been going on for years and years. Now technology has given us another liberty—to see first hand what is going on. Now that we can see it we have got to hold them accountable. From excessive force to murder—everything we see, we have to hold them accountable—including the so-called good cops standing by allowing this to happen. One bad cop isn't acting alone. There are several other bad cops allowing that one to do what he is doing."

Elaine Welteroth

"A war has been waged on Black life in America. And it's been building over time right in front of our eyes. Now that we've reached a tipping point, a different kind of #TimesUp movement is underway that is calling white and non-Black people into ACTION to save Black lives. Black people all over this country are demanding that our white and non-Black colleagues, friends, and neighbors step up, speak up, and join the FIGHT WITH US. If you are still unsure what part to play in times of protest, try NOT appointing yourself judge of a people whose constant pain you've had the privilege to ignore. Instead of criticizing the response to terror, consider how far you would have to be pushed to do the exact same thing? 

Until you have actively and consistently objected the oppressor, you cannot righteously object the outcry of the oppressed. Until you have survived generations of inequality without relief or retribution, you may not lead the conversation on what an appropriate response to inequality looks like. Until your son/husband/dad has been brutalized by an authority you pay for his protection. Until you've watched a cop car ram into a crowd that includes your child. Until you've fought alongside them fruitlessly, you may not offer critique from anywhere other than the battlelines. We are at an inflection point in our country. What you say and do in this moment will be remembered as a reflection of the value you place on human life. Let the energy and focus of your fight be directed at a system that's enabled terrorism against Black people on our soil for generations."

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"E! stands in solidarity with the black community against systemic racism and oppression experienced every day in America," the network said in a statement on May 31. "We owe it to our black staff, talent, production partners and viewers to demand change and accountability. To be silent is to be complicit. #BlackLivesMatter."

(Originally published June 8, 2020, at 12 a.m. PT)