“Black lives have always mattered, we have always been important, we have always met suffering, we have always succeeded, regardless. And now is the time. I ain’t waiting,” said John Boyega, the London-born actor, at the demonstration in the U.K. capital on Wednesday to show solidarity with the protests in the United States, as well as to protest against the racism that is also endemic in U.K. society.
Made famous by his role in the new Star Wars saga, Boyega said, as he addressed the crowd: “I speak to you from the bottom of my heart. I don’t know if I’ll have a career after this shit, but fuck that.”
His speech was full of emotion: “Every black person in here remembers when another person reminded you that you were black. … I need you to understand how painful this shit is. I need you to understand how painful it is. To be reminded every day that your race means nothing.”
His words were followed on Thursday by dozens of statements of solidarity from the entertainment industry. LucasFilm, the Star Wars production company which is now part of Disney, was one of many: “LucasFilm stands with John Boyega and his message that, ‘Now is the time. Black lives have always mattered. Black lives have always been important. Black lives have always meant something,’” said the statement published on the Star Wars Twitter account, echoing the words of the actor at the event. “The evil that is racism must stop. We will commit to being part of the change that is long overdue in the world. John Boyega, you are our hero.”
Others who showed solidarity with the actor were Jordan Peele, director of Get Out, Guillermo del Toro (The Shape of Water) and Edgar Wright, director of Baby Driver.
Born in 1992, Boyega made his debut in 2011 with Joe Cornish’s Attack the Block, a small-budget science fiction film in which a gang of London boys defend their neighborhood from an alien invasion in the East End. Then, in Kathryn Bigelow’s Detroit, which recounts the 1967 riots in the city in Michigan and the subsequent murder of three African-American teenagers by the police, he played the difficult role of a security guard working with the police.
In front of the crowd that marched to Boris Johnson’s residence at 10 Downing Street on Wednesday, the actor chanted together with the protesters, calling for justice for Belly Mujinga, a rail worker who died of the coronavirus after a man spat on her at Victoria Station (the police ruled that this had not been the cause of her infection).
“Today is about innocent people who were halfway through that process,” he added. “We don’t know what George Floyd could have achieved. We don’t know what Sandra Bland (an African-American woman found dead in her cell under suspicious circumstances in Texas in 2015 – n.ed.) would have achieved. But today we’re going to make sure that that won’t be an alien thought to our young ones.”
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