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.

By Sarah Grossbart Jun 08, 2020 7:00 AMTags

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. 

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Celebrities Speak Out in Response to George Floyd's Death

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

Many a metaphor has been employed to illustrated 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? 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."

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Celebrities Attending Protests Over George Floyd's Death

Nor does saying that Black lives matter mean that other causes are being tossed aside, as E!'s Nina Parker reasoned, explaining why she remains flummoxed by the "All lives matter" messaging that continues to flood her social media feed. "It's insane to me," she said in a Daily Pop discussion last week, "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. And in the wake of yet another devastating loss, many experienced voices are offering their views and sharing their accounts. Read their takes, absorb, learn. 

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."

 

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."

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."

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."

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."

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!

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."

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."

Kevin Hart

"As a father I'm worried about the future of our next generation of black men & the generations after that & the ones after that. If we do not do our job right now & do what we can to have a law put in place to help us feel protected in these streets then this type of crime will continue to happen without a worry in the world. A law needs to be put in place that will make these officers accountable as well as the other officers who are present at the scene of the crime. This needs to happen....This shouldn't even be a discussion it should be an immediate ACTION!!!!! We need all of you governors & mayors to step up and do the right thing. I don't know how to go about this but I promise you that I will try my best to figure it out.....ENOUGH IS ENOUGH! We deserve the right to feel safe. A law like this will give us a level of comfort. Consequences to such ridiculous acts should be immediate and known by all. 20yrs in prison or life in prison....it has to be something....the other officers present that don't stop or prevent these acts should get time as well....SOMETHING HAS TO CHANGE IN THE SYSTEM NOOOOOOOOOOW!!!!!! Point blank.... Enough is Enough!"

Michael B. Jordan

"Many people see this logo and think it's a cop, but it's really a black man. This logo by Chuck D represents the target on black folks backs. If you saw the logo differently, think differently: This country was built on the backs of our ancestors—backs that had a target the entire time and this month is no different with more black lives caught in the crosshairs. Too many look at us as public enemies, only some see us as humans, and yet we need to be superhuman just to survive. We must strategize, organize, and train ourselves as we demand more. One arrest isn't enough. This is just the beginning."

"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."