Spurred by Jacob Blake, George Floyd shootings, Tyrese Gibson is taking action: ‘We’re being a voice for the voiceless’

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Tyrese Gibson, one of Hollywood’s most notable Black performers as an actor, singer and songwriter, has a heavy heart in the wake of the shooting of Jacob Blake, was shot seven times in the back by Rusten Sheskey, a police officer in Kenosha, Wis. while his children looked on in an SUV.

Blake was shot by the Kenosha police officer who was responding to a reported domestic dispute. The shooting has left the 29-year-old paralyzed from the waist down, his family said.

The six-time Grammy-nominated singer and author is releasing “Legendary,” his first single in five years. He has tapped one of the industry’s most-known unknown filmmakers in Deon Taylor to direct an accompanying short film titled “8:46” that will premiere alongside “Legendary” Aug. 28 on BET.

“Eight Minutes, 46 Seconds,” the length of time George Floyd was pinned to the ground on May 25, gasping for air while Minnesota police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck, will blend Black Lives Matter protest footage and dramatic re-enactments of prominent instances of police brutality against Black people in America before its final sequence offers viewers an alternate ending to the ongoing narrative.

George Floyd died May 25 after Minnesota police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds.

Gibson was in no temperament to champion the fact that “Legendary” is his first studio release in a half-decade and purely aimed to shed light on the shooting of Blake and the fact that the premiere of the new single, which features five-time Grammy-winner CeeLo Green, and “8:46” is “about George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud [Arbery], Trayvon [Martin] – this is about their unsolved murders and civil unrest that we're all feeling.”

“From the beginning, we have been on the receiving end of what [racists] want to do to us. It's unfair to say all White people are racist because that's not how I feel,” Gibson, 41,  told Fox News on Wednesday during a virtual press junket for the single and short film’s release.

Gibson, a native of the Watts neighborhood in South Central, Los Angeles, spoke of his first memorable experience with a White man – an educator by the name of Raymond Lewkow who served as a principal at a school Gibson attended as an adolescent. According to Gibson, he “went above and beyond to take care of me” when the “Transformers” star was just 9 years old.

“I was just telling friends of mine last night about him,” Gibson recalled of the administrator who left a lasting impression on Gibson so many decades later.

The “Fast and Furious” franchise star shared that aside from his personal relationship with Lewkow, many other experiences he had with White men at the time were anything but positive.

“Everything else about my experiences was growing up in Watts, South Central with police [was] excessive force, murder, gangs, Crips, Bloods, planting drugs on us, putting us in jail and I'm like, 'Yo, you've got these White people coming into our community and just literally killing us and they are the law – but they're moving and functioning like they're above the law,'” said Gibson.

“I've always seen racism even when I'm not looking for it, I've experienced racism,” Gibson pressed. "Personally – as an adult, as a grown man – I have never seen this level of blatant racism playing out in front of us on this level ever in my life. And you realize that there are closet racists who have been waiting on the opportunity to be who they are and Donald Trump has said 'Everyone come out,' and there's a particular arrogance that comes with that invite.”

The “Sweet Lady” performer lamented that fellow “mothers and fathers and children, cousins, family members, associates, high school classmates will they will never see their friend ever again,” in discussing Floyd’s death and praised Deon Taylor as a film director with a creative license and vision beyond anything Gibson has witnessed before.

ATLANTA, GEORGIA – OCTOBER 23: Tyrese Gibson and Deon Taylor attend "Black and Blue" Atlanta special screening at The Plaza Theatre on October 23, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images for Screen Gems)

“If you go down Deon Taylor's timeline, you would assume that he is 40 movies into Hollywood, with how vocal he is about the things that matter,” Gibson raved. “One would ask, why are you doing so much, saying so much, speaking out about so much when you are just now getting your weight up on the level that you're getting your weight up on in Hollywood? Don't you know people could decide to not hire you and book you because you're so vocal?”

Gibson digressed: “This is the reason why we as artists don't speak up and speak out. So for him specifically to direct '8:46,' which is ‘Legendary,' and capture all of this trauma in eight minutes and 46 seconds, I feel like God is doing something through us. We're not playing a popularity contest.”

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Taylor, whose directing credits include “Traffik,” “The Intruder” and the cop thriller “Black and Blue,” echoed Gibson’s sentiment that “8:46” is carrying the torch once lit by Dr. Martin Luther King and said the short film is simply drawing from “all of our experiences.”

“I keep saying this, but art is a reflection of the time that we live in – and that's right now,” said the Chicago, Ill. native. “It's very easy as a filmmaker, I know for myself – I could tell you 10 movies that I'm set up to do that are all giant commercial movies but I can take you to three movies that I'm getting ready to do that will move the pulse of the culture and it's because 'What are you saying and why are you doing it?' This short film is so dope based on the fact that it's right now, it's today – it just happened [and] tomorrow it'll happen.”

“We are living in it – we're soaking in the shower with it right now,” Taylor maintained. “Everything that you're just seeing from [NBA Analyst] Kenny Smith walking off of TNT a moment ago, to the Milwaukee Bucks not coming out to play, to the NBA saying ‘we're not doing it,’ watching Jacob Blake, get shot seven times in his back – this is a breaking story constantly over the last seven months and you can make art that speaks directly to that and speaks directly to people – and when I say people, I mean all colors, all races, all creeds.”

Taylor made a point to praise Gibson and Green’s efforts. One hundred percent of the proceeds from the single and the film will directly benefit the families of and various charities and organizations that support the Black Lives Matter movement.

“They got in a room and they put this together to be able to say something and now they're actually going to give their art away for free,” Taylor explained. “And that art being given away for free is going to actually create money and financial stability for these people that are standing out here that don't have anything.

“So it is bigger and everything comes together now,” Taylor added. “You've got Tyrese's platform, you've got your platform, you've got everybody saying 'I'm going to support that,' and all the proceeds go to these people? Sign me up again.”

In this September 2019 selfie photo taken in Evanston, Ill., Adria-Joi Watkins poses with her second cousin Jacob Blake. He is recovering from being shot multiple times by Kenosha police. (Courtesy Adria-Joi Watkins via AP)

Gibson chimed with an emotional announcement, adding, “100% of the proceeds of what's about to happen with ‘Legendary aka ‘8:46’ is going to the families, including the 17-year-old girl who shot the footage of George Floyd's murder and is living in isolation in fear of her life.”

Gibson also praised civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump who put Gibson and Taylor in contact with the mothers of Eric Garner, the family of Floyd, Breonna Taylor’s mother and Trayvon Martin’s mother. All of their children are featured in “8:46.”

“We have been at this for almost two months and Benjamin Crump has been my brother, my mentor and has been literally the most powerful person involved in anything that has to do with this,” said Gibson. "I was born and raised in Watts, the same city that Dr. Martin Luther King was in in 1965, for these exact same reasons.

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“The Watts rebellion, the Watts riots that burned everything down was specific to murder, corruption, excessive force and racism that we as Black people are on the receiving end of. We did this selflessly on behalf of being a voice for the voiceless,” he added.

Sharpton is set to lead a BET-hosted “March on Washington” on Aug. 28 in Washington D.C.

“8:46” is slated to make its world premiere during a special titled “Get Your Knee Off Our Necks” which will air at 8:46 a.m. PST / 11:46 a.m. EST on BET.

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