'This Is Us' star Lonnie Chavis pens emotional essay amid BLM movement: 'My life matters, but does it?'

Lonnie Chavis
Lonnie Chavis
Photo: Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images
  • Lonnie Chavis, known for his role in NBC's This Is Us, wrote an emotional letter to his mom after the death of George Floyd.
  • The actor needed to process what it meant to be a Black man in America, he told Kelly Ripa and Ryan Seacrest on Live with Kelly and Ryan.
  • The 12-year-old details various situations over the years in which he feared for his own life. "Can you imagine holding on to your three little brothers while thinking that you are all going to be orphans? I can," he writes in his powerful essay.

12-year-old Lonnie Chavis, known for his role as a younger Randall Pearson – Sterling K. Brown's character – in the Emmy Award-winning series, This Is Us, has penned a powerful essay on being a young, Black man in America.

In the op-ed published by People, the actor reflects on having to come to terms with the death of George Floyd as Black Lives Matter protests continue in the US.

"My life matters, but does it? America paints a very clear picture of how I should view myself. America shows me that my Blackness is a threat, and I am treated as such."
Lonnie Chavis

The actor goes on to say that his parents educated him on what it means to be a Black man. "I was overwhelmed with confusion, fear and sadness," he writes. "I had to lean on my faith in Christ for hope, protection and understanding."

He shares various incidents over the years that left him feeling even more fearful. In one he says he constantly feels uncomfortable in Hollywood – "I think of going to Hollywood events with other actors and actresses where I was constantly asked if I'm the boy from Black-ish or the boy from Stranger Things," he writes – in another he witnessed a fellow actor portraying a racist grandmother and he couldn't hold back tears, even though his character was supposed to.

He talks about being racially profiled at a restaurant. "Can you imagine someone thinking you are a thief just because of the colour of your skin? I can," he says, after he was accused of stealing by a waitress.

"Can you imagine it being normal to start recording with your cellphone as soon as your mother is pulled over for a traffic stop? I can," he says of another incident.

He describes a scary encounter that happened at his own home. "My 10th birthday fell on Thanksgiving in 2018," he writes.

"After coming home late with my family from my birthday party, a Long Beach police officer twisted my dad's arm behind his back and pulled him from our doorstep with the door opened, claiming he was being detained for a traffic ticket. My mother ran to my room and told me with fear in her eyes to go into my little brother's room and stay away from the windows. She put my new baby brother in my arms and told me that no matter what I hear from our front yard to not come to the door — no matter what. I held my baby brother and cried as I could hear my mother yelling outside of our home. I thought my parents were for sure going to die going up against the police. By the grace of God, they are both still with me, and that racially motivated harassment against my father was dismissed.

"Can you imagine holding on to your three little brothers while thinking that you are all going to be orphans? I can."

"Policies need to change, laws need to change, the police need to change, Hollywood needs to change, hearts need to change, America needs to change. Change has got to happen for unarmed Black citizens to not live in fear of being murdered.

"Can you imagine being me in 2020 and wondering what the future holds? I can't."


The essay started as a personal letter written by the 12-year-old to his mom.

During his appearance on Live with Kelly and Ryan he said he hopes his letter will evoke change. "Ultimately, I would like people to see me past my skin colour just long enough to get to know my heart," he said. 

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