Kendrick Sampson is no stranger to playing heartthrobs on hit shows like Insecure and How to Get Away With Murder. He’s also not a stranger to community advocacy and empowerment. 

Sampson sat down with Blavity this week to discuss how he’s been handling social distancing and ways to support Black communities through the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“What’s getting me through is being a part of the solution and amplifying a lot of the work that liberators are doing around the country,” said Sampson, while noting that we have to be there for each other even if we can’t do so physically. 

Sampson was actually sick as state-enacted stay-at-home mandates began to ripple through the nation. When his test results for COVID-19 came back negative, he used a strep throat diagnosis to catch up on much-needed rest with a focus on self-care. That said, during quarantine, his morning texts are usually filled with work-related messages regarding his nonprofit, BLD PWR (pronounced Build Power). BLD PWR is a non-partisan, grassroots liberation initiative focused on social justice, and they’re constantly on the lookout for campaigns and activists to magnify.

“Being a part of the solution is something that helps me and keeps me busy,” the actor said. 

When asked how his personal activism had evolved, he explained that his efforts haven’t changed but have just become more intense and digitally focused.

“It’s something I have to translate into digital activism, making sure I’m doing stuff on social media. And that’s really essential even when we’re not in quarantine,” Sampson said. 

“Doing more lives, texting and Zoom meetings and FaceTimes, just trying to organize digitally. Black folks are being disproportionately affected by this crisis, so we were already fighting that before and it’s every single crisis. So, it’s keeping me busy.”

Indeed, data surrounding health complications and fatalities connected to the virus are beginning to suggest that Black communities are being hit particularly hard. Still, states are refusing to break down coronavirus infection and death rates based on race, as Blavity previously reported

Sampson endorsed Bernie Sanders, and many of his travels have been on the campaign trail for the one-time presidential hopeful. Though Sanders announced he was dropping out of the running after Sampson’s interview with Blavity, The Vampire Diaries star still managed to share interesting and timely thoughts on how the epidemic may affect voting. 

“I think we need to push for a vote by mail. There’s a lot of interesting theories, why haven’t we figured out a way to vote [online?] We fill out the census online don’t we?”

He acknowledged that although there’s nothing like in-person activism, physically voting at booths would go against current CDC recommendations. And when asked how we could support vulnerable Black communities, bolstering CDC health guidance was first on Sampson's list. 

“Encourage each other to stay home and encourage each other to wash our hands and take care of ourselves and social distance. Those are the personal responsibilities,” the 32-year-old continued.

“There’s also things we can do to pressure our government to take care of us that way it should. I was watching a video of this police officer following these two kids around Walmart because they had masks on. I posted that and said this is just one of the ways that we have to deal with the crises and it’s not like racism and inequity just goes in quarantine and we don’t have to worry about them,” he elaborated. 

Unemployment may not be enough, or even possible to get, for many marginalized people. While everyone should still apply, there are several organizations he recommends we support that are seeking to solve the gaps the government has yet to fill in regard to equity for all. 

Housing Justice 4 All, Moms 4 Housing, CPD Action …If you’re in Texas, Texas Organizing Project is another one. If you’re looking for books to deconstruct capitalism, Haymarket Books has some really great suggestions to really understand how capitalism exacerbated this situation. The Dream Defenders in Florida are always doing really great work.  If you’re in California, JusticeLA is great,” Sampson rattled off among several more. 

Sampson believes advocacy and community engagement are a form of mental wellness and one of the best things you can do, not just for others, but also for yourself. 

“Make sure that you’re kind to yourself. And get work done and get involved in these campaigns," he said. "Part of being well mentally is being a part of the solution, not feeling helpless.”