Kendrick Sampson has a lot more to offer the world than his roles on screen, and he knows it. He also knows the same is true of his Hollywood peers.
In May, the “Insecure” actor launched BLD PWR (pronounced “Build Power”), a nonprofit initiative aimed at teaching his colleagues in the entertainment industry to use their platforms to fight for social justice causes. BLD PWR hopes to mobilize visible, influential people to become freedom fighters, much like those who came before them (e.g. Harry Belafonte, Jane Fonda, Marsha P. Johnson, Audre Lorde and Muhammad Ali, just to name a few).
“It is our duty as entertainers, as people who have access to media, to use whatever we can,” Sampson told HuffPost. “I think that we’re all on this earth to be our brothers’ and sisters’ keeper. I think that’s our purpose. I think that our purpose is to use whatever privilege we can find in our lives and use that to lift up and empower, and join in the fight of liberation for all. To make sure that we all are afforded those privileges, especially when it deals with human rights. To make sure that we’re all OK.”
“If we have a platform, then we have a privilege and we should use it,” he added. “Even when we don’t have big social media platforms, we can use our lives as our platform and whatever that looks like.”
Along with organizers Tia Oso and Mike de la Rocha, Sampson is seeking to cultivate a community where collective action can take place. At May’s launch event, the team introduced the nonprofit to nearly 300 entertainers, athletes, artists and organizers, offering them a crash course in how they can use their privilege to advocate for those who need it most. BLD PWR focuses primarily on “intersectional racial justice and undoing systemic oppression in the criminal legal system,” according to its website. The group uses education and individualized training to help folks dive into their personal journeys with policy experts, academics and organizers.
“BLD PWR is an initiative that trains up the next generation of freedom fighters in the entertainment industry,” he said. “We want to train them up and make sure that they have a connection to the community and they have a real opportunity to educate themselves, and be educated by experts, in issue areas that help them foster whatever passion they have... and also to provide a safe space for radical imagining of a different world where we can counter all the radical hate out there.”
The Houston native has long spoken out against the injustices marginalized people face ― a practice he inherited from his parents. He told HuffPost he’s woven activism work into his acting career, avoiding roles that lean into stereotypes and trying to raise awareness about police brutality. He became even more active in grassroots organizing during the early years of Black Lives Matter, marching at protests and partnering with the activist group on different initiatives. In the past year, he’s also used his Instagram to speak out about the migrant crisis at the border, as well as encouraging young people to vote.
Sampson wants to inspire in his peers the same passion that drove him to become more active. He understands the privilege and the power entertainers wield, and how art can translate to public influence.
“We’re artists, we’re creatives... I always go back to that famous quote that there’s not revolution without art,” he told HuffPost. “Whether it’s murals or protest art, or whatever it is, things are effectively communicated and really hit home and penetrate the soul, the heart, when it’s effectively communicated through art. Especially artists, I think, should be at the forefront of and have always been at the forefront of movements.”