Michael B. Jordan, star of films like Black Panther, Just Mercy, and Fruitvale Station, spoke passionately at a Black Lives Matter protest in Los Angeles on Saturday, June 6, 2020. During the demonstration, which took place in front of many prominent buildings housing industry workers, Jordan spoke about his personal connection to the Black Lives Matter movement, what he hoped to communicate with his work, and called out the folks housing those very buildings to do better.
Jordan began by noting he played Oscar Grant, a real life person shot to death by the police in Fruitvale Station, commenting on how transformative it was to experience his pain and life. He then spoke about government-controlled efforts to suppress education and knowledge in order to quell revolution, as it related to his experience producing and performing in Fahrenheit 451.
Producing that movie made me really realize the lengths that the government and oppressors will go to keep knowledge out of your hands. They know that if we unlock this up here, that we’ll be unstoppable. And they’re scared of that.
Jordan went on to describe his Black Panther antagonist role of Killmonger as “an activist” and “a revolutionary,” and spoke about his experience playing real-life lawyer and activist Bryan Stevenson in Just Mercy. Stevenson has devoted his life to fighting against systemic racism on a granular level, and Jordan spoke about how he “learned his tactics, learned his mentality, learned his approach to things. Very calm, very strategic, very thoughtful. We have to be proximate. We have to be close to issues. That’s why I love and support everybody that’s out here, because we have to be here together, shoulder to shoulder.”
Jordan then went after his own industry directly, saying, “They need to go on notice.” Jordan spoke about his own production company’s dedication to inclusion riders, the practice of including a rider in a contract that ensures a production’s commitment to diversity if the person in question is to be hired. But Jordan called for further change:
I use my power to demand diversity, but it’s time the studios and agencies and all these buildings we stand in front of to do the same… You committed to a 50/50 gender parity in 2020. Where is the challenge to commit to Black hiring? Black content led by Black executives, Black consultants. Are you policing our storytelling as well? Let us bring our darkness to the light. Black culture: the sneakers, sports, comedic culture that you guys love so much. We’ve dealt with discrimination at every turn. Can you help fund Black brands, companies, cultural leaders, Black organizations?
Jordan’s point is exactly correct. Structural change needs to happen at every level, including and especially the top. Positions of power need to commit to structural, actionable inclusion starting yesterday. Jordan concluded his thoughts by saying: “What we are doing today will make our values heard and our voices heard. We’ve got to keep agitating things. We can’t be complacent. We can’t let this moment just pass us by.”
Check it out Jordan’s full comments below. For more on how stars are speaking up about the Black Lives Matter movement, here’s John Boyega protesting in London. If you want to help, here’s a place to start.