"I'm still here to tell my story, but I could have easily been an Ahmaud Arbery or a George Floyd," the actor said in an Instagram video Friday

By Ashley Boucher
June 12, 2020 06:55 PM
Jay Pharoah
Frazer Harrison/Getty

Jay Pharoah is sharing details of a recent encounter he had with police while exercising in Los Angeles.

The former Saturday Night Live star, 32, shared his story with a video on Instagram on Friday.

Pharoah explained that about a week before the video surfaced last month of Ahmaud Arbery being shot and killed while out for a jog in Georgia, he was stopped by police while running along Ventura Boulevard.

"As I'm walking across the street, Corbin and Ventura, I see an officer to the left of me. I'm not thinking anything of it, because I'm a law-abiding citizen," Pharoah explained in his Instagram video, sharing security footage of the encounter.

"I see him coming with guns blazing, I see him say 'get on the ground, put your hands up like you're an airplane.' As he's looking at me, I'm thinking that he's making a mistake. So I'm looking past where he's looking. I'm looking at him, and I'm looking past me cause I'm like, 'whoever they're about to get, this is going to be terrible.'"

"No," Pharoah said. "He was coming to get me."


The footage that Pharoah shared shows a police car pull up to the sidewalk, followed by four officers with guns drawn approaching the comedian, who is on the ground.

"Four officers got their guns blazing, they tell me to get on the ground, spread my arms out, they put me in cuffs, the officer took his knee, put it on my neck," Pharoah said. "It wasn't as long as George Floyd, but I know how that feels."

Floyd died on May 25 after he was pinned down by police officers in Minneapolis, one who kept his knee on his neck for nearly nine minutes.

The White Famous star said that the officers told him he "fit the description of a black man in this area with gray sweatpants on and a gray shirt."

"I told them if you look, Google right now Jay Pharoah, you will see that you made a big mistake," the actor said, adding that shortly after he was told the officers had received a call that he was not the person they were looking for.

"I had never been in cuffs before up until that point," Pharoah said. "I'm a law-abiding citizen."

Footage shared by Jay Pharoah
Jay Pharoah/Instagram

"I'm from the 'burbs, you know? Luckily my parents, what they did was they tried to shelter me and my sister for years. So we never saw that. I didn't experience first-hand racism in America until this year," he said.

Pharoah encouraged viewers to get educated.

"Black lives always matter. My life matters. I'm still here to tell my story, but I could have easily been an Ahmaud Arbery or a George Floyd. And I'm not, and I can tell my story so I will tell y'all, this is what you need to do: educate yourselves. Educate yourselves on the laws, understand what the cops are saying to you, so if they try to flip anything on you, on young black men, on black men in general, we have the knowledge and we have the power to overthrow that, because we're well-rounded. We know what's going on. Be in the know."

The video concluded with a re-enactment of Pharoah under the cops knee.

Footage shared by Jay Pharoah
Jay Pharoah/Instagram

"I literally could have been George Floyd," he said to the camera. "We as a country can't breathe anymore. And we are tired. We are sick and we are tired of it. I can't breathe!"

In a clip previewing Monday's upcoming episode of CBS' The Talk., Pharoah told the hosts that despite anyone's status, "if you are Black in America, you can be subjected to the same thing."

Of the officers forcing him to get on the ground, Pharoah said, "it was totally gratuitous. They didn't have to do that."

"I was just trying to exercise. It could have easily turned into another situation if I wasn't who I am. The point here is that being Black in America is just that: being Black in America. Other people can't level with the same fears that I have leaving the house. We should not have to fear going to the grocery store, going to get some gas, running down the street. It's called human civility. That's what it is. It's about being a human. That's why everybody is out protesting."

Pharoah also added that although this occurred during peak concerns about the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), the officers were not wearing masks or gloves or anything else to offer protection.

"You know, corona put us in the house. And George Floyd took us out of it," he said. "I love what's happening because it seems like everybody is just tired of it, and coronavirus gave us a chance to pay attention to what was happening and actually put some things in order so we could really get some change out of it."

To help combat systemic racism, consider learning from or donating to these organizations:

• Campaign Zero (joincampaignzero.org) which works to end police brutality in America through research-proven strategies.

ColorofChange.org works to make the government more responsive to racial disparities.

• National Cares Mentoring Movement (caresmentoring.org) provides social and academic support to help black youth succeed in college and beyond.