Oscar-winning actor Denzel Washington says making positive change in black communities starts at home.

At a special advanced screening of Washington’s latest film Roman J. Israel, Esq., the iconic actor addressed whether the black community should be optimistic about making change given the state of the world right now.

“It starts in the home,” Washington told theGrio at New York’s Henry R. Luce Auditorium.  “If the father is not in the home the boy will find a father in the streets. I saw it in my generation and every generation before me, and every one since.”

“If the streets raise you, then the judge becomes your mother and prison becomes your home.”

Washington plays Roman J. Israel, a criminal defense lawyer who partners with young civil rights activists and attorneys to address social injustice.

Throughout the film, the idealistic attorney finds his values tested.

The 62 year-old actor says it was young people in the 1990s who inspired him to stay optimistic about change.

“I remember when I was doing the movie Malcolm X and we were doing a speech up at Columbia, we had a bunch of students from Columbia University,” Washington told theGrio.

“In between takes, we were talking about things and how tough the world is and I was like ‘With everything we’re talking about, does it make you want to give up?’”

And they’re like, “Oh, no no, we’re gonna change it.”

“I was like, ‘Oh, I’m the cynic.’

“So I pray that young people never lose that fire, I don’t think they will. And needless to say there’s a lot for them to work on.”

Roman J. Israel, Esq. was funded in part by MACRO, a black-owned production company founded by media mogul Charles D. King. King recently raised $150 million in funding, and helped produced the Netflix film Mudbound and Fences, which featured an Oscar-worth performance from Washington.