If I were to tell you that Kendrick Sampson‘s journey into activism was inspired by a sign in the bathroom, you wouldn’t believe me.
But the fact of the matter is, it’s 100% true. A simple message, “Leave It Better Than You Found It,” became the mantra that the Houston native would eventually tap into in order to shift his activism efforts from a simple act to a revolutionary lifestyle. He is coy yet hilarious as he divulges this story over the phone during a quiet yet busy evening in LA. And as he continues to speak, it becomes more and more apparent that while the impetus may be comical, his dedication to amplifying the voices of those who live in the margins of our society are indeed no laughing matter. “I have a platform, I have a voice, and I need to do the work and utilize whatever privilege I have in order to keep people from dying. And I can’t be complicit in that,” he tells me.
He continues, “It’s our purpose, I feel, to leave this Earth better than we found it. And so I really just leaned into that and who I am because it’s completely righteous and justified. I’ve gone about different creative ways in doing it based off what I feel led [to do] and what’s most effective, but there’s definitely tactics and nuance to all of this.”
And tactics and nuances seem to be the main aspects undergirding his new initiative, BLD PWR (pronounced “Build Power”). It’s a liberation training, freedom-fighting measure that seeks to leverage the collective power of those primarily in the entertainment industry, to lend their platforms and voices to increase civic engagement and create real shifts towards transformational social justice. In partnership with visionaries such as Tia Oso and Mike De La Rocha, they hope to not only raise up the next wave of socially conscious entertainers but to also foster a safe space that cultivates both imagination and radical love.
I recently got the chance to chat with Kendrick about his new initiative for xoNecole, check out the highlights below. And to read the full interview, click here.
On the new BLD PWR initiative: “BLD PWR is about taking action and how to do that in a healthy way. It asks how do you lift up those vulnerable voices without speaking for them? And how do you learn from your mistakes and what that looks like in a training process? We want to build up the next Harry Belafontes, Marsha P. Johnsons and all these amazing, dope, radical change-makers that were involved in the process and movement. Whatever privilege they had, they aided in uplifting those with a little bit less privilege. Whether it was with their resources, or creatively producing content, or just showing up at marches and protests.”
On The Moment That Defined His Passion For Activism: “There wasn’t a clear defining moment, but I feel like my whole life, I just had this inclination towards trying to do right. And a lot of times it was more so about being right and that was a selfish thing. I think God used that against me to where it was like, ‘If you really want to be right all of the time, you need to acknowledge that you’re not right. That you don’t know everything, you can’t be a know-it-all and it’s impossible. You need to humble yourself.’ So I listened to God in that and try to do my best in allowing that to lead so that I can follow and be an example in that. And it’s manifested itself into different ways throughout my life.”
On Whether Or Not Art and Activism Can Ever Be Mutually Exclusive: “It depends on how people understand activism. A lot of people think that every project should be an activism-centered project. They think that there needs to be a protest or a statement on something. And I don’t necessarily think that. But I think the way we approach stories should be activism in the sense that our lives are activism. Think about Insecure for example, there’s no clear policy that they’re trying to push, but it was activism in the sense that it told the story of vulnerable communities that had not been seen before in that space. And that’s so essential and important.”
On The Evolution He Hopes To See 5-10 Years: “I want it to look like an army of freedom fighters. That we’re out here building multiple safe spaces, we fostered other people’s initiatives and communities, and that we won’t necessarily get the credit for it. You won’t be able to fully grasp the scope and reach of what we do and manifested in the world. I want it to amplify other people’s work, the people on the ground, and in my heart, I want to be able to say, ‘that’s beautiful that I was a part of that’ and no one will ever know. But ultimately, [I] want to see safe spaces for the liberation of the most vulnerable folk and people of color, black, brown, indigenous folks and uplifting their stories and bringing them into the center. And having Hollywood lead the charge.”