Beyoncé, Chris Rock, Chance the Rapper, Alicia Keys, Rihanna, Queen Latifah, Janelle Monáe, Bono, Taraji P. Henson — these are all names that are newsworthy even when they’re saying nothing, and they’re using the notion of their particularly heightened celebrity platform to make news that matters. Sadly, people can ignore tragedy, but they’re less willing to ignore celebrity, and it’s especially helpful when the people who’re thought to be diversions from reality make you actually stare it in the face, and then direct you towards ideas about how to begin to fix it.
Following the brutal killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile last week, and in the wake of protests throughout the country — and elsewhere in the world — the above artists, and many others, have teamed up (under the leadership of Keys) with Mic and the We Are Here Movement to lead people to a petition asking the president and Congress to enact legislative change to the ways force is handled by the police — and to how that force particularly targets members of black working class communities — as well as to other aspects of the system (education, healthcare, housing) that’ve kept certain communities oppressed throughout U.S. history.
They released a video with each celebrity focusing on a particular black person who’s been killed by the police, titled “23 Ways You Could Be Killed If You Are Black in America.” Accompanied by the photos and names of victims who’ve recently made the news, each celebrity simply reads off what the victims were doing before they were killed — Alicia Keys says “failing to signal a lane change,” recalling Sandra Bland’s arrest and subsequent death by hanging in prison; Beyoncé, speaking of Philando Castile, says, “riding in your girlfriend’s car with your child in the back; Taraji P. Henson says “selling CDs outside of a supermarket,” referring to the shooting of Alton Sterling.
The end of the video encourages people to head to the We Are Here Movement website, which equates the struggle for racial justice to a “moonshot,” quoting Kennedy speaking about the space race, saying, “We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills.” The analogy they make is that:
The way to ameliorate the costs of making things right are directly equal to the cost of the Apollo Moon Landing. $150 billion directed at poor communities over the next 10 years, will provide access to equal education, healthcare, quality housing, training and jobs, nutrition and an overhaul of the Criminal Justice System.
Watch the video and go here to learn more and sign the petition: