A Second Look At Jesse Williams & His BET Awards Speech
As if you haven’t heard it all over social media already, my aim today is to make you well aware of Jesse Williams – recipient of the 2016 Humanitarian Award, presented by BET during their recent award show.
I’ll be straight-forward; I personally had no idea who the guy was before that Sunday night/Monday morning. I don’t keep up with Grey’s Anatomy, a medical show in which he plays Dr. Jackson Avery, I don’t follow his Twitter or Instagram, @iJesseWilliams, and I was not aware of his presence during the protest in Ferguson upon the murder of Michael Brown. But I was not alone, as social media was filled with many who were not familiar with the actor and activist before the BET Awards.
After further research, I was able to find the link on National Public Radios online department, et voila! A refreshing video of a young man of color who used his resources, his time, and his influence to produce something so positive that it provoked thought and inspired development among a seemingly oppressed race.
When Jesse Williams walked on stage, he began with an incredible dedication to his parents and supporters.
[“This award, this is not for me. This is for the real organizers all over the country. The activists, the civil rights attorneys, the struggling parents, the families, the teachers, the students that are realizing that a system built to divide and impoverish and destroy us cannot stand if we do.”]
Though it started off tame, Jesse, with much moxy and intent, delivered a message that was executed in a way to command the attention of even the most stubborn of believers that equality exists amongst all races.
[“You’re free, they keep telling us, but she would have been alive if she hadn’t acted so free.” (In reference to Rekia Boyd and Sandra Bland.)
“The burden of the brutalized is not to comfort the bystander. That’s not our job. All right, stop with all that. If you have a critique for the resistance, for our resistance, then you better have an established record of critique of our oppression. If you have no interest in equal rights for black people, then do not make suggestions to those who do. Sit down.]
My favorite part is when Jesse paid homage to the fact that a great deal of young black men and women, ‘get money’ just to give it back to the designers that we (and by we I mean, I included) all love most.
[“The thing is, though, all of us in here getting money that alone isn’t going to stop this. All right? Now dedicating our lives to getting money just to give it right back. To put someone’s brand on our body when we spent centuries praying with brands on our bodies and now we pray to get paid with brands for our bodies. There has been no war that we have not fought and died on the front lines of. There has been no job we haven’t done. There’s no tax they haven’t levied against us. And we pay all of them. But freedom is somehow always conditional here.”]
It’s not a long drawn out speech that he gave; it was clear, it was concise and he got right to the point. From what I gathered, I am convinced to challenge you, reader, to influence the people with whom you surround yourself to “wake up.” Not through violence or hate, but by empowering yourself to get to know your history, find out where opportunities in your community hide, and how you can become an ace in the hole in your area.
“Hating people because of their color is wrong. And it doesn’t matter which color does the hating.” – Muhammed Ali