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Ava DuVernay gives advice on how to be an ally to communities of color

The acclaimed filmmaker also spoke about creating the LEAP initiative to spotlight police abuse through storytelling in movies, literature and more.
/ Source: TODAY

Filmmaker Ava DuVernay has some advice for people who are looking to be allies of communities of color as protests continue worldwide against systemic racism.

The director of the Oscar-nominated "Selma" and "13th" spoke with Hoda Kotb and Jenna Bush Hager on TODAY Tuesday about people taking action no matter where they live.

"The sad truth is that it's pervasive,'' she said about racism. "It's no matter where you live. There's a bias and an oppression that is happening — it's been happening — and it's time for people who believe in justice and dignity to do something about it."

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DuVernay, 47, urged people to educate themselves about issues in the Black community and then take action.

"I think one of the things for people to understand is that you have to do what you can where you are,'' she said. "Everyone's not at the same level of their awareness or education about a lot of what's going on. So if you're not in that place, then you've got to learn.

"If you are in a place where you're educated to history and the current challenges as it relates to the historical precedents, then you're in a place where you can take action."

DuVernay added that speaking from the heart and being upfront about a lack of knowledge about a subject are two ways people who want to be allies can feel comfortable speaking out when they may fear they will say something wrong or offensive.

"I understand what that is, but you've got to take it upon yourself to educate yourself," she said. "You know what I say sometimes off the top? 'I don't know this so I might make mistakes, but I just want to talk to you from my heart and please correct me.'"

DuVernay has taken action by creating the Law Enforcement Accountability Project (LEAP), a fund which will support projects in film, theater, photography, fine art, music, poetry, literature, sculpture and dance that are based on "storytelling around police brutality and murder" in order to "disrupt the code of silence that exists around police aggression and misconduct."

LEAP was created to shed light on officers who abuse their power and the overwhelming statistical evidence that very few of them are prosecuted, DuVernay said.

She has been encouraged that the outcry across the world following the death of George Floyd last month in Minneapolis police custody has led to more people across all races being allies, educating themselves about racial injustice and speaking out.

"I see a lot of people doing that now, and I've never seen it at this magnitude in my 47 years," she said. "So that gives me hope."