Kendrick Sampson is far more than the actor you see on television; he’s a community activist, a leader, and an overall advocate for humanity. Born and raised in Houston, Texas, Sampson comes from a family of musicians and artists, which is exactly where he draws his creativity from. While you may recognize his face from his role on ABC’s How to Get Away with Murder, his business endeavors include starting his own production company, Sampson Studios, and launching his social justice initiative BLD PWR.
WE TAKE NOTE caught up with Sampson during Our Future Fest in Downtown Los Angeles, a free festival seeking to engage with and encourage the youth, especially people of color and those from immigrant families. Programmed by Power California and Revolve Impact, the nonprofit event featured many influential leaders and artists, including Sampson, who was the event’s MC, and Kid Ink, who headlined the festivities.
What does it mean to be part of Our Future Fest?
I’ve been going all over the country meeting really dope organizers, and the people who inspire me most are the youth activists. These are youth leading the charge here to lower the voting age to 16, leading climate change, liberating our communities—especially the most vulnerable black, brown, and indigenous communities.
How have you grown as a person on and off the screen during your time on How To Get Away with Murder?
Well, that was a minute ago, in 2015/2016. Since then, the world has changed so much. We’ve gotten some abusive administrations. [chuckles] Every day, it’s so volatile. The culture changes from day to day. Since then, there’s been a surge in activism. Just that journey. I started being super, super vocal probably on How To Get Away when I was shooting it. A little bit before that, Black Lives Matter was coming into prominence, and I joined in on that fight. I haven’t stopped, it’s just increased from there. I’ve gained more confidence. Even more, I gained more of a love for community building and making sure that we’re working towards liberation.
What compelled you to start your production company?
I wanted to see more people like me represented, more people I loved that I was working with behind the scenes. We were in class together. I saw these talented people—black, brown, indigenous, and Asian people—that weren’t being represented. We were trying to create content for each other; that’s why I wanted to start producing and writing. Unfortunately, I was kind of forced into that situation, but I also chose it because I love it.
Why do you feel it’s important to share socially-conscious messages that bring light to communities that are often silenced?
It’s important to use whatever privilege we have. It’s our purpose to make sure that we’re all okay. It’s our purpose to be our brother’s and sister’s keeper on this earth. It’s our purpose to leave this world better than we found it, to leave every situation better than we found it. If people don’t know what their purpose is, I just told you. Your purpose is to leave people in this world better than you found them. That’s making sure you go out and seek the most vulnerable and use whatever privilege you have, to uplift those who have less of that privilege or aren’t in the place to exercise that privilege. That’s what I do; I try to identify whatever that is. My platform as a privilege, my male privilege, light skin privilege, economic privilege—whatever it is. I got a white mama. Whatever privilege I can find, I use that to liberate.
Anything else you want to let us know?
Follow @BLDPWR (Build Power); it’s my new social justice initiative. Co-founded it with Mike De La Rocha and really dope and amazing Tia Oso (a black woman). We’re out there trying to build a culture of liberation in Hollywood and beyond and connect organizers from the ground to Hollywood.