Addressing the students, she said “George Floyd’s life mattered.”
“As we’ve all seen over the last week what is happening in our country and in our state and in our home town of L.A. has been absolutely devastating,” said Markle, who recently relocated to Los Angeles with her husband, Prince Harry, following a brief stint in Canada after departing the U.K.
She told the all-girls school: “I wasn’t sure what I could say to you. I wanted to say the right thing and I was really nervous that I wouldn’t or it would get picked apart, and I realized the only wrong thing to say is to say nothing because George Floyd’s life mattered and Breonna Taylor’s life mattered and Philando Castile’s life mattered and Tamir Rice’s life mattered.
“And so did so many other people whose names we know and whose names we do not know.”
The five-minute address was first reported by the African-American female U.S. magazine Essence, which reported Markle as saying: “I was 11 or 12 years old and it was the L.A. riots, which was also triggered by a senseless act of racism.
“I remember the curfew and I remember rushing back home, and on that drive home, seeing ash fall from the sky, and smelling the smoke and seeing the smoke billow out of buildings. I remember seeing men in the back of a van just holding guns and rifles.
“I remember pulling up to the house and seeing the tree, that had always been there, completely charred. And those memories don’t go away.”
Markle went on to credit a teacher from the school for giving her the courage to speak out for what she believes in. “One of my teachers, Ms. Pollia, said to me, ‘Always remember to put other’s needs above your own fears.’
“That has stuck with me throughout my entire life and I have thought about it more in the last week than ever before,” said Markle.
Markle’s comments are particularly resonant given her recent experience in the U.K., where she was subjected to extreme media scrutiny — some of which had racial undertones.
As Kensington Palace said on behalf of Prince Harry in a 2016 statement prior to the couple’s engagement: “Meghan Markle has been subject to a wave of abuse and harassment. Some of this has been very public — the smear on the front page of a national newspaper; the racial undertones of comment pieces; and the outright sexism and racism of social media trolls and web article comments.”
In the U.S., anti-racism protests continue following the death of Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis on May 25. Four officers have now been charged in relation to his death. The event has triggered a wave of global protests, with demonstrations staged in the U.K., New Zealand, France and Germany.
Watch Markle’s full speech below:
Manori Ravindran contributed to this report.