Meghan Markle, actress and Duchess of Sussex, voiced her support for Black Lives Matter in a virtual commencement address delivered to the graduating class of 2020 at her alma mater, Immaculate Heart High School in Los Angeles.
In her speech, Markle admitted that over the past few days she’d grappled with finding the right words to say, if any, about the recent wave of protests and the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and others. But she noted: “I realized, the only wrong thing to say is to say nothing. Because George Floyd’s life mattered, and Breonna Taylor’s life mattered, and Philando Castile’s life mattered, and Tamir Rice’s life mattered, and so did so many other people whose names we know and whose names we don’t know. Stephon Clark. His life mattered.”
She continued: “The first thing I want to say to you is that I’m sorry. I’m so sorry you have to grow up in a world where this is still present.”
Markle went on to share her memories of growing up in Los Angels during the riots that erupted in 1992 after four Los Angeles Police Department Officers were acquitted of beating Rodney King. She said she was 11 or 12 at the time, just about to start Immaculate Heart Middle School, and recounted a drive home just before curfew and seeing ash fall from the sky, smelling smoke, people looting stores and men in the back of a van just holding guns and rifles.
Addressing the graduates, Markle said: “I can’t imagine that at 17 or 18 years old, which is how old you are now, that you would have to have a different version of that same type of experience. That’s something you should have an understanding of — but an understanding of as a history lesson, not as your reality.”
Markle closed by acknowledging the community solidarity that was also apparent during the 1992 L.A. riots, as well as over this past past week of protests. She encouraged the graduates, “You are going to use your voice in a stronger way than you have ever been able to, because most of you are 18, or you’re going to turn 18, so you’re going to vote. You are going to have empathy for those who don’t see the world through the same lens that you do, because with as diverse, vibrant and opened-minded as I know the teachings at Immaculate Heart are, I know you know that black lives matter. I am already excited for what you are going to do in the world.”