amandla stenberg: high voltage


When Amandla Stenberg heard the news that Trump had been elected, she was in Nazi Germany. The 18-year-old actress and activist was on the set of Amma Asante’s forthcoming film Where Hands Touch, the untold story of the biracial children who existed in war-torn Germany, shooting a scene with a backdrop of buildings covered in swastikas.

“There were soldiers that day who were playing SS soldiers,” she remembers. “It was chilling… kind of like a hyperbolic metaphor for everything that was going on.”

Post-election, Stenberg took to Instagram, writing a letter to her followers (all one million of them) to express her agony – and to offer those who felt the same pain a place to process their feelings. “I’m fucking furious and I do not expect you to be brave or optimistic,” she wrote. “I hope my page is a space where you can feel safe to speak and be angry. I am not denying the concrete and physical danger of the future. I am telling you that your identity and strides are valid — even when you are tired, even when you are just existing as you.”

Stenberg has already mastered the role of activist, using social media to advocate for, and amplify the voices of, young people who are black, queer and gender non-conforming. The space that she’s determined to conquer next? The cinema.

As she enters adulthood, Stenberg is taking conversations about revolution offline and changing their course by inserting herself into cultural spaces where people like her still aren’t seen. This is the very thing that drew her to Asante, whose sophomore feature, 2013’s Belle, is a period drama with a mixed-race protagonist. From 18th-century London (Belle) to Apartheid-era Botswana (last year’s A United Kingdom) and now 1940s Berlin (Where Hands Touch), Asante’s glossy period pieces present alternative versions of history, revised and rewritten through sheer force of representation.