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Meghan Markle says 'George Floyd's life mattered' in speech

Meghan Markle today broke her silence on the murder of George Floyd, declaring that 'black lives matter' and revealed that she had not spoken about his death before because she had been 'nervous'.

The Duchess of Sussex gave an address to graduating pupils at her old school, Immaculate Heart High School in Los Angeles, where she also named other African Americans who were killed in the US by police in recent years.

The 38-year-old former actress, who attended the school from the age of 11 to 18, said: 'George Floyd's life mattered and Breonna Taylor's life mattered and Philando Castile's life mattered and Tamir Rice's life mattered'. 

The other three people Meghan mentions were killed by US police over the past six years. Meghan also referred to Los Angeles as the family's 'home town' after moving there with husband Prince Harry, and their son Archie.

On speaking out about Mr Floyd, she said: 'I wasn't sure what I could say to you. I wanted to say the right thing and I was really nervous that it would get picked apart. And I realised the only wrong thing to say is to say nothing'.

Meghan made the six-minute virtual speech yesterday before the video was released to black women's lifestyle magazine Essence, which published it on its website today saying 'courtesy of Meghan, Duchess of Sussex'. 

It comes as demonstrations continue to build around the world after Mr Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, died after white police officer Derek Chauvin put his knee on his neck in Minneapolis on May 25 for nine minutes. 

Meghan Markle has given a video address to her old school in Los Angeles in which she talked about George Floyd's murder

Demonstrations protest over the death of George Floyd, in Los Angeles yesterday - where Harry and Meghan now live

During the video, Meghan also said there were many others killed by police who would never have been named. She said: 'As we've all seen over the last week what is happening in our country and in our state and in our home town of LA has been absolutely devastating'.

The Duchess also said how the students are 'going to have empathy for those who don't see the world through the same lens that you do', adding: 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 know you know that black lives matter': What Meghan told the students for graduation speech

On Black Lives Matter: 'With as diverse, vibrant and opened minded as I know the teachings at Immaculate Heart are, I know you know that black lives matter'

On the 1992 Los Angeles riots: 'I remember the curfew and I remember rushing back home and on that drive home, seeing ash fall from the sky and smelling the smoke and seeing the smoke billow out of buildings'

On waiting to speak out: 'I wasn't sure what I could say to you. I wanted to say the right thing and I was really nervous that I wouldn't or that it would get picked apart. And I realised the only wrong thing to say is to say nothing'

On African Americans killed by police: '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 do not know. Stephon Clark, his life mattered'

On what her teacher once told her: 'One of my teachers, Ms Pollia, said to me as I was leaving for a day of volunteering, 'always remember to put other's needs above your own fears'. And that has stuck with me throughout my entire life'

On people coming together: 'We are seeing people stand in solidarity, we are seeing communities come together and to uplift. And you are going to be part of this movement.

The former Suits star told students that she had been about to start secondary school when the Los Angeles riots began in the spring of 1992 after the brutal beating of Rodney King.

She said: 'I was 11 or 12 years old when I was just about to start Immaculate Heart Middle School in the fall, and it was the LA Riots, which was also triggered by senseless act of racism.

'And I remember the curfew and I remember rushing back home and on that drive home, seeing ash fall from the sky and smelling the smoke and seeing the smoke billow out of buildings and seeing people run out of buildings carrying bags and looting.

'And I remember seeing men in the back of a van just holding guns and rifles. And I remember pulling up at the house and seeing the tree, that had always been there, completely charred. And those memories don't go away.'  

Meghan also referred to some advice she was given by a teacher aged 15, saying: 'I remember my teacher at the time, one of my teachers, Ms Pollia, said to me as I was leaving for a day of volunteering, 'always remember to put other's needs above your own fears'.

'And that has stuck with me throughout my entire life and I have thought about it more in the last week than ever before.' 

Meghan was referring to her former theology teacher, Maria Pollia, who has previously described her as a 'remarkable student' who was 'very enthusiastic about the material, but always took it a step further'. 

Meghan also spoke to the students about their futures, saying: 'You know that you're going to rebuild, rebuild and rebuilt until it is rebuilt. 

'Because when the foundation is broken, so are we. You are going to lead with love, you are going to lead with compassion, you are going to use your voice.'

She added that the students would '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'. 

Meghan also told them: 'You are equipped, you are ready, we need you and you are prepared. I am so proud to call each of you a fellow alumni, and I'm so eager to see what you're going to do.

'Please know that I am cheering you on all along the way, I am exceptionally proud of you, and I'm wishing you a huge congratulations on today, the start of all the impact you're going to make in the world as leaders that we all so deeply crave. Congratulations ladies, and thank you in advance.'

Meghan said she remembered the Los Angeles riots of 1992 (above) which happened when she was growing up in the city

The Duchess of Sussex is pictured as a young girl with her father Thomas Markle. She was aged 10 at the time of the LA riots

An old clip of Meghan filmed as part of the 'I Won't Stand For...' campaign for non-profit organisation Erase the Hate, has come to light following the recent protests. In the video, Meghan shared her hope that society will become more 'open-minded'

Her speech left some Immaculate Heart students in tears, with one on Twitter with the user name 'blm • gia' saying: 'Meghan Markle talking about George Floyd and BLM in my virtual graduation. I'm crying.' 

How the 1992 LA riots left 59 dead after police were filmed beating up black motorist Rodney King

From April 30 to May 1, 1992, a series of devastating riots erupted in Los Angeles, with a toll of at least 59 dead and more than 2,300 injured. 

The violence was set off by the acquittal of four white police officers who were filmed beating up a black motorist called Rodney King in March 1991. 

A fire burns out of control at the corner of 67th Street and West Boulevard in South Central Los Angeles on April 20, 1992

Thousands of people flooded the streets looting, committing arson, robbing and attacking people at random. Helicopters captured many of the attacks and broadcast them on live television. 

Violence also broke out in Atlanta, California, Las Vegas, New York, San Francisco and San Jose. 

The Duchess has opened up in the past about how racism has affected her own family.

Meghan has previously described the experiences of both her mother and grandfather, and her own journey as a biracial woman.

The former Suits star became the first mixed-race person in modern history to marry a senior British royal, in 2018.

But Meghan and the Duke of Sussex quit as senior working royals in March to pursue personal and financial freedom in the US, after telling of their struggles dealing with their royal life and the intense media interest.

The American ex-actress recounted, before marrying into the Windsor family, how her grandfather told her as a child that he and his family stopped off at Kentucky Fried Chicken during a road trip, but had to go to the back of the restaurant for 'coloureds' and eat the chicken in the car park.

'That story still haunts me,' she wrote. 'It reminds me of how young our country is. How far we've come and how far we still have to come.'

Meghan, whose father Thomas Markle is Caucasian and mother Doria Ragland is African-American, wrote of her background: 'While my mixed heritage may have created a grey area surrounding my self-identification, keeping me with a foot on both sides of the fence, I have come to embrace that.

'To say who I am, to share where I'm from, to voice my pride in being a strong, confident mixed-race woman.'

In a piece for Elle Magazine in 2015, she said she witnessed her mother being called 'the n word' by another driver in Los Angeles and described the heartache it caused.

'My skin rushed with heat as I looked to my mom. Her eyes welling with hateful tears, I could only breathe out a whisper of words, so hushed they were barely audible: 'It's OK, Mommy',' she wrote. 

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are pictured in Cape Town last September during their royal tour of South Africa

Meghan is pictured as a teenager with her father Thomas. She attended Immaculate Heart School from the age of 11 to 18

Meghan also described how her great-great-great-grandfather went on to create his own identity when freed from slavery.

What Meghan has said in the past about racism 

  • On how her grandfather told her as a child that he and his family stopped off at Kentucky Fried Chicken during a road trip, but had to go to the back of the restaurant for 'coloureds' and eat the chicken in the car park: 'That story still haunts me. It reminds me of how young our country is. How far we've come and how far we still have to come.'
  • On her background: 'While my mixed heritage may have created a grey area surrounding my self-identification, keeping me with a foot on both sides of the fence, I have come to embrace that. To say who I am, to share where I'm from, to voice my pride in being a strong, confident mixed-race woman.'
  • On when her mother was called a n***** by another driver in Los Angeles: 'My skin rushed with heat as I looked to my mom. Her eyes welling with hateful tears, I could only breathe out a whisper of words, so hushed they were barely audible: 'It's OK, Mommy'.
  • On how her great-great-great-grandfather went on to create his own identity when freed from slavery: 'Because in 1865 (which is so shatteringly recent), when slavery was abolished in the United States, former slaves had to choose a name. A surname, to be exact. Perhaps the closest thing to connecting me to my ever-complex family tree, my longing to know where I come from and the commonality that links me to my bloodline, is the choice that my great-great-great grandfather made to start anew. He chose the last name Wisdom.'
  • On how her father once created a Barbie family for her for Christmas: 'A black mom doll, a white dad doll, and a child in each colour. My dad had taken the sets apart and customised my family.'
  • During the couple's tour of South Africa: 'On one personal note, may I just say that while I'm here with my husband, as a member of the royal family, I want you to know from me I am here with you as a mother, as a wife, as a woman, as a woman of colour and as your sister.'

'Because in 1865 (which is so shatteringly recent), when slavery was abolished in the United States, former slaves had to choose a name. A surname, to be exact,' she wrote.

'Perhaps the closest thing to connecting me to my ever-complex family tree, my longing to know where I come from and the commonality that links me to my bloodline, is the choice that my great-great-great grandfather made to start anew.

'He chose the last name Wisdom.'

As a child, her father, from whom she is now estranged, created a Barbie family for Christmas when they were only sold in sets of white dolls or black dolls.

She wrote on her lifestyle blog how her new collection had 'a black mom doll, a white dad doll, and a child in each colour. My dad had taken the sets apart and customised my family.'

When her fledgling relationship with Harry hit the headlines in 2016, the royal press team hit out at the 'wave of abuse and harassment' Meghan had faced from the media.

Kensington Palace issued a strongly worded statement on Harry's behalf, publicly supporting Meghan and attacking 'the racial undertones of comment pieces' and the 'outright sexism and racism of social media trolls and web article comments'.

When the couple married in a glittering ceremony in May 2018, commentators described their relationship as love transcending race in the most traditional institution in Britain.

For an opinion piece in the Metro, video journalist Funmi Olutoye described the significance of the romance.

'Never in a million years did I think someone in the royal family would be romantically involved with someone whose skin is a darker hue than theirs,' she said.

'It speaks volumes about how society is changing, albeit slowly. But it's definitely changing.'

Friends of Meghan's later denounced her critics as racists, after Harry and Meghan were scrutinised for taking four private jet journeys in 11 days, despite their environmental campaigning. 

Maria Pollia (right) was Meghan's theology teacher at Immaculate Heart High School. She is pictured above in May 2018 with the school's theology chair Christine Knudsen. Meghan said in her video message: 'One of my teachers, Ms Pollia, said to me as I was leaving for a day of volunteering, 'always remember to put other's needs above your own fears''

Canadian stylist Jessica Mulroney wrote on Instagram in the summer of 2019: 'When someone faces unfair criticism, you call it out.

From Breonna Taylor to Philando Castile, the black Americans shot by police who Meghan mentioned in her speech 

The Duchess of Sussex made reference to four other black people killed by US police in recent years. Here is what happened to them:

BREONNA TAYLOR

Breonna Taylor was a 26-year-old black woman who was killed in her home in the Kentucky city of Louisville in March.

The emergency medical technician was shot eight times by drugs detectives who knocked down her front door while attempting to enforce a search warrant.

Police said the officers announced themselves and returned gunfire when Miss Taylor's boyfriend fired at them, but the family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit. No drugs were found in the home.

PHILANDO CASTILE

Philando Castile was a 32-year-old black motorist who was shot dead by a police officer after being stopped while driving in Falcon Heights, Minnesota.

The officer, Jeronimo Yanez, was acquitted of manslaughter over the incident in July 2016 which was live-streamed on Facebook by the victim's girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds.

Mr Yanez, who was fired from the police force, claimed he feared for his life and Mr Castile did not follow orders.

TAMIR RICE

Tamir Rice was a 12-year-old black boy who was killed by police officer Timothy Loehmann as he played with a pellet gun.

The boy had been playing in a park in Cleveland, Ohio, in November 2014 when the officer pulled up, jumped out and fired his weapon twice.

The City of Cleveland agreed to pay his family £4million in April 2016 but with no admissions of any wrongdoing.

STEPHON CLARK

Stephon Clark was shot by police in Sacramento, California, after clutching a mobile phone that officers said they mistook for a weapon.

The 22-year-old black man was shot at least seven times on the grounds of his grandmother's property in March 2018.

But the district attorney found that the officers involved, who had been investigating nearby break-ins, did not commit a crime.

'When that person is your friend and your family, you call those critics what they truly are. Shame on you, you racist bullies.'

During the couple's tour of South Africa, Meghan delivered a rousing speech to teenage township girls, speaking publicly for the first time since becoming a member of the royal family about being a 'woman of colour'.

She said to cheers from the crowd: 'On one personal note, may I just say that while I'm here with my husband, as a member of the royal family, I want you to know from me I am here with you as a mother, as a wife, as a woman, as a woman of colour and as your sister.'

Meghan and Harry had been maintaining a low profile on social media during the Black Lives Matter protests - and stayed offline during Black Out Tuesday this week on their Sussex Royal Instagram page. 

The royal couple have stayed silent on social media over the past two months, with their last Instagram post on March 30.

But their general quiet had been questioned, with one Twitter user commenting yesterday: 'Meghan Markle has stayed annoyingly quiet during all of this... and it is really bugging me.'

Another named Guisou said: 'Wondering why Meghan Markle and Prince Harry are quiet about the racism occurring in the US?'

Vivian Maria added: 'Where is Meghan Markle? She seems awfully quiet these days.'

Sol wrote in response to a resurfaced campaign video from 2012 of Meghan opening up about her experiences of racism: 'Where is she now? I don't see her speaking about what's happening now.'

And an Instagram user questioned: 'Are there any recent pics and appearances? I think the sussexroyal account account is dormant right now. Do Harry and Meghan have a new account somewhere?'  

However, the Queen's Commonwealth Trust, which is overseen by the Queen, Harry and Meghan, shared on Instagram and Twitter a Martin Luther King Jr quote, saying 'Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.' 

Meghan, who had not yet met Harry when she taped the video, shared her hope that society will become more 'open-minded' and learn to see the beauty in a 'mixed world'.

It comes as an old clip of Meghan, now 38, filmed as part of the 'I Won't Stand For...' campaign for non-profit organisation Erase the Hate, has came to light againt following the recent protests. 

Immaculate Heart High School is a private Roman Catholic school in the Los Feliz area of Los Angeles, where Meghan studied from the age of 11 to 18.

The Duchess was voted as the school president - the equivalent of a head girl in Britain - and was also made homecoming queen.

More recently, pupils at the school gathered at 3am on May 19, 2018 to watch the royal wedding.

Her father Thomas has previously said he 'happily' paid the fees for her to attend a school which has close showbusiness links.

Markle is not Catholic, and was baptised into the Anglican faith just before her wedding to Prince Harry, but was welcomed at the school.

Its graduates include Mary Tyler Moore, Tyra Banks and Walt Disney's daughter Diane.

Many of the Duchess of Sussex' former classmates and teachers have fond memories of Meghan.

One friend has previously revealed how she has always been fond of penning personal notes going back to her school days. 

Immaculate Heart High School (file picture) is a private Roman Catholic school in the Los Feliz area of Los Angeles

Michelle Fanara said that 20 years ago Meghan wrote her a note of encouragement that she tucked inside her yearbook.

'To have someone reach out and say, 'Hey, if you ever need someone,' that is pretty special,' Ms Fanara told Inside Edition. Meghan wrote the note when the shy student struggled to cope with the death of a beloved great aunt.

Meghan's speech 'very powerful' despite royal exit, says expert

The Duchess of Sussex's impassioned black lives matter speech has been hailed as incredibly powerful, but could have been even more so if she had been a working royal, a royal commentator has said.

Penny Junor said the address Meghan gave to her old high school about the death of George Floyd in the US was 'very moving, very touching'.

The royal writer added that Meghan, who no longer uses her HRH style, still remains part of the monarchy as a family member, despite stepping down from royal duties.

'I think it's very powerful. It makes me sorry that she's not speaking as a working member of the royal family,' the royal writer said. 

'But it doesn't matter, because she still is a member of the royal family.'

Meghan and the Duke of Sussex quit as senior working royals in March, a move dubbed Megxit, after their plans for a dual role earning their own money and supporting the Queen were deemed unworkable.

Ms Junor added that Meghan speech's carried so much weight because she was mixed race and royal. 'That's why it's so powerful. It's a combination of who she is and what she is.'

Asked whether Meghan would have had the freedom to deliver the same address as a senior royal, Ms Junor replied: 'I think she would ... I think these are sort of exceptional times and exceptional circumstances.'

She added: 'I do think she could have done it if she'd been here and it would have been perhaps even more powerful.'

Much has changed for Harry and Meghan since they said their vows in St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle, on May 19 2018, in front of the royal family, celebrity guests and a worldwide television audience of millions.

Ms Junor added: 'She is who she is. Harry is who he is. They happen to be living in America, but they do still have a voice.

'The more they use it for good like that, then I think the better.'

'I wanted to retreat into my own shell and Meghan was like, 'No you can't do that. You're here. You're here for a reason.' She kept pulling me out of my shell.'

Christine Knudsen, who taught one of Meghan's senior classes, previously told ABC's 20/20: 'She had a lot of inner strength. She was spunky. She was feisty.

'She loved to sing. She loved to act, but she also had that depth, which kind of moved into all of her other subjects. And that was what came through in the end.' 

One teacher even went to Windsor to witness the wedding - former drama teacher Gigi Perreau, who Meghan spotted on her carriage ride through the streets and waved to excitedly.

Ms Perreau, a former film actor who is now 78, helped train Meghan as an actress long before she landed her role in popular legal drama series Suits.

'You see someone nice to the other kids, who gets good grades, doesn't say anything bad about anybody,' she told The Telegraph when asked about Meghan. 'She was dedicated. I knew she would be something special.'

Meghan went on to Northwestern University in Illinois and rose to fame in 2010 as the sassy Rachel Zane in Suits.

However, she left the show and her acting career to concentrate on her charity projects and to marry Prince Harry.

The former actress, the first mixed race person in modern history to marry a senior British royal, has been outspoken on racism in society. 

The Sussexes have also previously spoken of their struggles with royal life and intense media interest.

They are preparing to launch their new charitable organisation Archewell - named after their son.

It will replace their now-defunct Sussex Royal brand, but plans to launch the venture have been delayed while the world battles coronavirus.

Even though Harry stepped down from royal duties on March 31, he is still technically a member of the Royal Family - and is therefore expected to remain strictly neutral on political matters and avoid airing his views in public.

However he risked a diplomatic row in March after accusing Donald Trump of having 'blood on his hands' during a hoax phone call with Russian pranksters.

And Meghan's father Thomas Markle revealed last June that Harry told him he was 'open to the experiment' of Brexit after they had a conversation about it.

'I'm so sorry that you have to grow up in a world where this is still present': Meghan's full speech to students

'Immaculate Heart High School, the graduating class of 2020. For the past couple of weeks I've been planning on saying a few words to you for your graduation.

'And as we've all seen over the last week what is happening in our country and in our state and in our home town of LA has been absolutely devastating.

'And I wasn't sure what I could say to you. I wanted to say the right thing and I was really nervous that I wouldn't or that it would get picked apart.

'And I realised 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 do not know. Stephon Clark, his life mattered.

'And I was thinking about this moment when I was a sophomore in high school, I was 15, and as you know sophomore year is the year we do volunteer work, which is a prerequisite for graduating.

'And I remember my teacher at the time, one of my teachers, Ms Pollia, said to me as I was leaving for a day of volunteering, 'always remember to put other's needs above your own fears'.

'And that has stuck with me throughout my entire life and I have thought about it more in the last week than ever before.

'So the first thing I want to say to you is that I'm sorry. I'm so sorry that you have to grow up in a world where this is still present.'

'I was 11 or 12 years old when I was just about to start Immaculate Heart Middle School in the fall, and it was the LA Riots, which was also triggered by senseless act of racism.

'And I remember the curfew and I remember rushing back home and on that drive home, seeing ash fall from the sky and smelling the smoke and seeing the smoke billow out of buildings and seeing people run out of buildings carrying bags and looting.

'And I remember seeing men in the back of a van just holding guns and rifles. And I remember pulling up at the house and seeing the tree, that had always been there, completely charred. And those memories don't go away.

'And 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 that you should have an understanding of, but an understanding of as a history lesson, not as your reality.

'So I am sorry in a way that we have not gotten the world to a place where you deserve it to be.

'The other thing though that I do remember about that time was how people came together, and we are seeing that right now. We are seeing that from the sheriff in Michigan or the police chief in Virginia. 

'We are seeing people stand in solidarity, we are seeing communities come together and to uplift. And you are going to be part of this movement.

'I know that this is not the graduation that you envisioned and this is not the celebration that you imagined. 

'But I also know that there's a way for us to reframe this for you to not see this as the end of something but instead to see this as the beginning of you harnessing all the work, all of the values, all of the skills that you have embodied over the last four years – and now you channel that.

'Now all of that work gets activated. Now you get to be part of rebuilding. And I know that sometimes people say how many times do we need to rebuild? 

'But you know that you're going to rebuild, rebuild and rebuilt until it is rebuilt. Because when the foundation is broken, so are we. You are going to lead with love, you are going to lead with compassion, you are going to use your voice.

You're 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. So I am already excited for what you're going to do in the world. 

'You are equipped, you are ready, we need you and you are prepared. I am so proud to call each of you a fellow alumni, and I'm so eager to see what you're going to do. 

'Please know that I am cheering you on all along the way, I am exceptionally proud of you, and I'm wishing you a huge congratulations on today, the start of all the impact you're going to make in the world as leaders that we all so deeply crave. Congratulations ladies, and thank you in advance.'

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