After the recent killings of Philando Castille and Alton Sterling – celebs like Beyonce, Rihanna and others reveal 23 ways Black lives have been killed in America. Watch the heartfelt PSA below.

In America, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness isn’t supposed to be a luxury item. It’s what America promises, one of its core principals. Yet, the recent killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castille have made it apparent to many Americans that this promise is being broken before our very eyes… again. From enslavement to Jim Crow, women’s suffrage to gay rights, we know that many have had to fight and claw for that American Dream. As Harvard graduate Donovan Livingston so eloquently stated during his spoken word speech at the institution’s School of Education 2016 Convocation exercises, sometimes he feels like “A lonely blossom in a briar patch of broken promises. But I’ve always been a thorn in the side of injustice.” Collectively across the country, citizens are demanding change. Celebrities have also been stepping forward, utilizing their massive followings and social media platforms, not to sell products but instead to encourage calls to action. Yesterday, Alicia Key, Beyonce, Rihanna, Rosario Dawson, A$AP Rocky, Chris Rock, Bono, Pink, Janelle Monae, Talib Kweli and many others used the power of their voices in a PSA organized with Mic called “23 Ways You Could Be Killed If You Are Black in America”.

23 ways beyonce rihanna

The PSA uses real life examples of the recent ways black lives have been lost due to police brutality and acts of terror in America. These include the innocuous actions of Sandra Bland, Ramarley Graham, Eric Garner, Freddie Gray, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Sean Bell, Renisha McBride, John Crawford III, Rekia Boyd and many others. These harmless actions were:

“Failing to signal a lane change.”

“Running to the bathroom in your own apartment.”

“Selling cigarettes outside of a corner store.”

“Making eye contact.”

“Wearing a hoodie.”

“Holding a fake gun in the park in Ohio.”

“Sitting in your car before your bachelor party.”

“Calling for help after an accident.”

“Holding a fake gun in Walmart.”


This PSA is part of the WE ARE HERE Movement that is using these famous faces and voices to keep this issue at the forefront. It features a call to action at the end for people to unite their voices and contact President Obama as well as Congress and to demand immediate change so that all Americans have the “equal right to live and pursue happiness” as Alicia Keys states at the end. You can follow #23ways on social media for more.

To quote Donovan Livingston again, “At the core, none of us were meant to be common./ We were born to be comets,/ Darting across space and time”. This speech was a spoken word piece called “Lift Off” that Donovan Livingston wrote himself. Harvard called it, “one of the most powerful, heartfelt student speeches you will ever hear!” Scroll below to watch and read it:

“Education then, beyond all other devices of human origin,
Is a great equalizer of the conditions of men.” – Horace Mann, 1848.
At the time of his remarks I couldn’t read — couldn’t write.
Any attempt to do so, punishable by death.
For generations we have known of knowledge’s infinite power.
Yet somehow, we’ve never questioned the keeper of the keys —
The guardians of information.

Unfortunately, I’ve seen more dividing and conquering
In this order of operations — a heinous miscalculation of reality.
For some, the only difference between a classroom and a plantation is time.
How many times must we be made to feel like quotas —
Like tokens in coined phrases? —
“Diversity. Inclusion”
There are days I feel like one, like only —
A lonely blossom in a briar patch of broken promises.
But I’ve always been a thorn in the side of injustice.

Disruptive. Talkative. A distraction.
With a passion that transcends the confines of my consciousness —
Beyond your curriculum, beyond your standards.
I stand here, a manifestation of love and pain,
With veins pumping revolution.
I am the strange fruit that grew too ripe for the poplar tree.
I am a DREAM Act, Dream Deferred, Dream Incarnate.
I am a movement – an amalgam of memories America would care to forget
My past, alone won’t allow me to sit still.
So my body, like the mind
Cannot be contained.

As educators, rather than raising your voices
Over the rustling of our chains,
Take them off. Un-cuff us.
Unencumbered by the lumbering weight
Of poverty and privilege,
Policy and ignorance.

I was in the 7th grade, when Ms. Parker told me,
“Donovan, we can put your excess energy to good use!”
And she introduced me to the sound of my own voice.
She gave me a stage. A platform.
She told me that our stories are ladders
That make it easier for us to touch the stars.
So climb and grab them.
Keep climbing. Grab them.
Spill your emotions in the big dipper and pour out your soul.
Light up the world with your luminous allure.

To educate requires Galileo-like patience.
Today, when I look my students in the eyes, all I see are constellations.
If you take the time to connect the dots,
You can plot the true shape of their genius —
Shining in their darkest hour.

I look each of my students in the eyes,
And see the same light that aligned Orion’s Belt
And the pyramids of Giza.
I see the same twinkle
That guided Harriet to freedom.
I see them. Beneath their masks and mischief,
Exists an authentic frustration;
An enslavement to your standardized assessments.

At the core, none of us were meant to be common.
We were born to be comets,
Darting across space and time —
Leaving our mark as we crash into everything.
A crater is a reminder that something amazing happened here —
An indelible impact that shook up the world.
Are we not astronomers — looking for the next shooting star?
I teach in hopes of turning content, into rocket ships —
Tribulations into telescopes,
So a child can see their potential from right where they stand.
An injustice is telling them they are stars
Without acknowledging night that surrounds them.
Injustice is telling them education is the key
While you continue to change the locks.

Education is no equalizer —
Rather, it is the sleep that precedes the American Dream.
So wake up — wake up! Lift your voices
Until you’ve patched every hole in a child’s broken sky.
Wake up every child so they know of their celestial potential.
I’ve been a Black hole in the classroom for far too long;
Absorbing everything, without allowing my light escape.
But those days are done. I belong among the stars.
And so do you. And so do they.
Together, we can inspire galaxies of greatness
For generations to come.
No, sky is not the limit. It is only the beginning.
Lift off.