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Kendrick Sampson, best known for his roles on The Vampire Diaries and How to Get Away with Murder, said the American people need a champion of progressive causes and can’t wait for incremental change.

At first, Sampson, who was politicized while participating in the Black Lives Matter movement, was not enthusiastic about Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders. But soon after researching Sanders’ legislative record on immigration and veterans, as well as his civil rights activism, the actor soon endorsed Sanders.

“I think he understands the plight of immigrants and people of color more than any other candidate running right now,” said Sampson.

Story Transcript

PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to the Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay, and we’re just hours away, really, from the beginning of voting in the California Democratic primary. Now joining us to talk about his participation is Kendrick Sampson. He’s an actor who is well known for playing Jesse on “The Vampire Diaries” and Caleb on “How To Get Away With Murder.” He’s also been out campaigning for Bernie Sanders. Thanks for joining us. KENDRICK SAMPSON: Thank you for having me. JAY: A lot of Hollywood, certainly a lot of very powerful Hollywood is very actively supporting, financing, campaigning for Secretary Clinton. Certainly there’s quite a few actors also supporting Sanders, but in terms of the trajectory of one’s career path, one would get along better in Hollywood, you know, when one is getting hired by the power brokers of Hollywood, not supporting Sanders, either staying quiet or being out for Clinton. What kind of prompted you to be not just a supporter or voter for Sanders? You’re really actively a surrogate, you’re campaigning. Why? SAMPSON: I was involved in Black Lives Matter. I got involved last year, just mostly social media and having meetings with undercover police officers and policy makers and just seeing what I could contribute to the conversation and hopefully come up with some policy proposals that would change things and who I could influence. And I was watching both of the candidates to see, or all of the candidates at the beginning, to see how they handled the Black Lives Matter protests and that whole movement at the beginning of this campaign season which was where it was really heated, and then a lot of he campaigning took over in the media. But at the beginning I watched Sanders and how he stepped aside and listened to the protesters and at the beginning it didn’t really mean much to me, but then I realized, you know, after doing research, mainly because I just thought he was, you know, a white man who wanted to get the Black vote and started acknowledging Black Lives Matter, but I was just slapped in the face with his civil rights activism and realized the significance of him stepping aside and listening to these activists, which was because he was an activist first, and he understands the protests. He stands with us, and he wanted their words to be heard and he wanted to listen and understand, and that made me research him more. And, you know, not just his activism, you know, marching with Martin Luther King and chairman of the Congress of Racial Equality and, you know, getting arrested for anti-segregation protests, but also his, you know, veterans bill, the most comprehensive veterans bill cast in a couple decades, and, you know, that affects people of color more than anything because people of color are more likely to join the military than the majority. So, minorities are more likely to join and more likely to be on the front lines, and more likely to come back and not be able to get a job or afford health care and those types of things. His national affordable housing trust fund act that he co-sponsored with Barbara Lee, those types of things really got be into it, and his support of immigration reform and the DREAM Act, and just wondering why he was so involved with disenfranchised and marginalized people, people’s rights, and the more I’ve studied it the more I’ve fallen in love with his message of equality for all. JAY: And just to go back to what I said in my introduction to you, how, have you felt any pressure from sort of officialdom Hollywood? I know some of the people you work with are pretty well known Clinton supporters. Any feeling of pressure on that side? SAMPSON: No. No one has really approached me. I mean, people who are not in that position, I guess, have made that argument, but no higher power, no executive has attempted to influence. Actually, most of them respect what I’m doing and why I’m doing it. They know that I’m not just doing it because it’s trendy and they know that I’m well informed. They know that I believe, you know, they know about my activism and my beliefs, most of the people that I work with, because I’m very vocal about that, Bernie Sanders campaign or not, so I really haven’t felt any pressure in that sense or received anyone trying to influence me in that way. JAY: You’ve said your politicization was very linked to Black Lives Matter. One of the critiques of Sanders has been that he doesn’t seem to get the specificity of systemic racism, how that affects Black people, that his sort of generalized campaign or analysis of economic inequality, some say it’s about class. That’s been a critique from some Black activists. What do you make of it? SAMPSON: I have not heard that specific critique. I’ve heard that in the beginning of the campaign season he didn’t receive a lot of the Black vote. I think he understands the plight of immigrants and people of color more than any other candidate running right now. The fact that he was or is a Jewish man who grew up poor and his father, you know, his father was an immigrant whose family was wiped out by the Holocaust, and his involvement with civil rights and championing of boosting the middle class and creating an equal playing field for lower income families and people of color, I think he understands it pretty well. I haven’t ever heard that, actually. JAY: It’s one of the reasons why some Black activists–for examples, we’re based in Baltimore and that’s part of where we’re hearing this, that his economic policies aren’t specific enough on what would happen or what could be done for places like Baltimore where you have such chronic poverty and unemployment and low wages. SAMPSON: That’s very interesting to me. I was with him in Baltimore and, you know, we had a Black Lives Matter activist, Kwame Rose, and a prominent Black pastor there and Cornell West, who I was actually with last night, who would strongly disagree with that. As a matter of fact, any Black activist that I know that I’ve talked to, a lot of them won’t publicly support him because of their affiliation with a larger organization and they don’t want to say that that organization is supporting Bernie as a whole or supporting any candidate but most of the Black activists thaI know, all of them, actually, are supporting Bernie Sanders. JAY: What do you think of this argument that the sort of numbers game is kind of over, that, you know, there’s not enough superdelegates that are likely to switch, that Clinton’s likely on Tuesday night going to get enough votes to have the pledged delegates and that Sanders should simply call for unity around Clinton in order to defeat Trump? SAMPSON: So, that math would be completely wrong. [audible laughter] She has to gain quite a bit of ground to earn that magic 2,383 number of pledged delegates in order to clinch the nomination, and that’s virtually impossible, especially with the momentum that Bernie Sanders has gained in the largest state, which is California, 475 delegates. She would have to gain quite a bit of delegates to win that number. If you’re talking about superdelegates, they don’t vote until the convention, so. And I actually strongly disagree with them expressing their support of any candidate before the convention, because their votes don’t count. A lot of them won’t even be selected as delegates, or, you know. I just don’t understand why people would push that math because it’s incorrect. JAY: Well, even if the math was correct, and, you know, I interviewed Sanders and asked him this question, even if she does have that math. He thinks it’s still worth a fight at the convention in terms of what happens to the future of the Democratic Party, whereas the Clinton supporters are saying, this is divisive. Clinton has to go and defeat Trump and Sanders at this point shouldn’t do anything that weakens that effort. What do you make of that? SAMPSON: I, you know, I was, I actually had this conversation with my Uber driver on the way here, who attacked me as soon as I got in the car, which was very different than–it was in San Diego, excuse me–but it was very different than other people that I encountered. All over San Diego people were, like, asking for pens and, like, you know, giving me thumbs up on my shirt and all that stuff, and then I encountered this man. And when I, I just don’t understand. There are so many things on the table like demilitarizing the police, like fracking, the fight against fracking, the fight for 15, 15 dollar minimum wage, free college, universal health care, those types of things that I think should be pushed at the convention, especially for their platform, you know, for their platform, and that’s where the candidates disagree, among other things, war. And I think those are important because lives, especially people of color and low income people are affected by those. Environmental racism, environmental injustice, you know, people that can’t afford college and would like to see a 15 dollar minimum wage, I think that those are important issues and I don’t understand why people would not want us to push for that at the convention. And I also don’t understand why people, after seeing the polls for Bernie Sanders versus the Republican candidate being much more likely, him being much more likely, in some cases double digits more likely percentage-wise to beat Trump, I don’t understand why more people would not back him, and they might, you know? Who knows? That’s for [crosstalk] the convention to decide– JAY: [interceding]–Well, one of the arguments I hear a lot is that his objectives are too big and are not achievable, where Hillary has similar objectives but she knows how to get there incrementally. What do you make of that? SAMPSON: I don’t, I don’t agree. I don’t believe that, I mean, some of their positions are similar but the ones that I care about the most, law enforcement reform and environmental justice and immigration reform and some of these things, I think a lot of, we don’t want, we’re going to a protest tomorrow morning for Black Lives Matter. We don’t want incremental change in law enforcement. We don’t want incremental change in environmental justice. We don’t want–Tell the people in Flint that, you know, we should have incremental change, [crosstalk] I don’t understand why any– JAY: [interceding]–Incremental [inaud.] lead poisoning, yeah. SAMPSON: Yeah. I don’t understand why anybody would want incremental change right now, because as great a country as this is, there are so many injustices going on and I think, you know, they’ve been highlighted in the past couple years. I think people, because we had a Black president, you know, before we had a president who sent us to war and didn’t necessarily highlight his care for people of color and we just kind of accepted it because, you know, that’s how it’s been. And when we finally got a Black president, a person of color into office, I think a lot of people kind of woke up and said, okay, the way things are, if we have a Black person in the office we shouldn’t be seeing some of the injustices. This is actually wrong. This has to change. And I think it came to a head, you know, in the past couple years, and I think we don’t, I don’t think we need incremental change. I think that, if people think that human rights, basic human rights is idealistic then call me idealistic. They’re basic human rights and I think we need them now. JAY: I know Sanders supporters think this is not over yet and perhaps it’s not over yet. I know the networks and everybody want to say it’s over. But, for the sake of argument, if Sanders isn’t successful at the convention what’s next for the Sanders movement? Because many people in the movement are saying this isn’t just about Sanders and this campaign. What’s next, and what’s next for you in terms of your activism? SAMPSON: I’m going to continue doing, you know, what I’ve been doing. I mean, this, we have a protest tomorrow morning for Black Lives Matter LA. We have, and I’m doing thing on, a staged reading for some kids at a juvenile detention center north of here for the Unusual Suspects, a charity called Unusual Suspects that’s highlighting the injustices in the criminal justice system with youth. So, I’m going to continue in that no matter what, those types of things. And then, you know, of course supporting immigration reform, and some of the people I’ve met along the way in Bernie Sanders’ movement, because what he’s done is united all these movements and created allies because we, you know, people in the feminist movement are talking to the people in Black Lives Matter movement who are talking who are talking with people in the immigration reform movement who are talking to people in, you know, environmental justice movement and noticing that we all have very similar goals and they all affect each other, and that we should help each other, so I think that’s a success that he’s already, he can already champion, he can already feel proud of. And another thing is, he’s shown, he’s already been successful in the sense that he’s shown that you can raise a lot of money from the people and you don’t have to accept corporate money, you don’t have to accept super PAC money and you can listen to the people and be held accountable by the people because you are funded by the people, and I think that’s going to inspire a whole new crop of politicians and inspire some of the politicians now who are, who have higher integrity and do want to listen to the people and fight for the people to stand up and say that enough is enough and money needs to get out of politics, the influence of the top one percent, the influence of corporations, the influence of lobbyists need to be pushed out of politics, and to listen to the majority of America. JAY: Thanks very much for joining us, Kendrick. SAMPSON: Thank you. JAY: And thank you for joining us on the Real News Network.


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