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Tessa Thompson, John Legend Among 1,000 ‘Black Artists for Freedom’ Calling to End Racial Injustice

tessa thompson john legend trevor noah
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A new collective of Black workers in the arts and entertainment field, called Black Artists for Freedom, has released a statement on their website commemorating Juneteenth and calling on cultural institutions to make changes in order to eliminate racial injustice.

The collective consists of over 1,000 Black actors, musicians, filmmakers, authors, painters and poets, including Academy Award, Grammy, Tony and Pulitzer Prize winners. Tessa Thompson, Sterling K. Brown, Niecy Nash, Gabrielle Union, Trevor Noah, Ava DuVernay, Barry Jenkins, Lena Waithe, Lupita Nyong’o, David Oyelowo and John Legend are all signees.

Titled “Our Juneteenth,” the statement begins by telling the history of the Juneteenth holiday and its importance to Black culture today amidst the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, among other Black citizens.

“The fact is plain: Black people are still not free. Day after day, generation upon generation, we are threatened, brutalized, and murdered by law enforcement and vigilantes,” the statement reads. “When we hear ‘I can’t breathe,’ we hear the voices of our children, parents, brothers, sisters, cousins. We hear our elders and ancestors. We hear ourselves, some future day.”

The collective then segues into the current Black Lives Matter protest movement and how it has inspired them to speak out against racism within arts and entertainment.

“The representation of Black people in the media has long been used to justify the violence against us. Racist stereotypes of Black criminality, monstrosity, unchecked rage, hyper-sexuality, immunity to pain, and so on, are still recycled today in books, films, and on the Internet,” the statement continues. “Consciously and unconsciously, these stereotypes are invoked — in everyday interactions and in courts of law — as reasons why Black people do not deserve human rights. We do not wish merely to modify or alleviate this racist culture. We aim to eliminate it.”

The statement then turns to a call to action, asking cultural institutions to commit to breaking ties with the police, putting their money where their mouths are, advocating for Black people, educating themselves and fighting for Black freedom.

“We believe that culture will change only if specific concrete interventions are made. Cultural institutions that depend on Black culture — publishing, writing, fashion, theater, film, television, visual arts, music, journalism, scholarship, education, social media — must commit to racial justice through material changes,” the statement says.

Read Black Artists for Freedom’s full statement and five demands here.