June 10, 2023
REAL TALK From AJ Woodson

Jesse Williams Used Platform At BET Awards To Discuss Police Killings, Racial Inequality & Cultural Appropriations

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Recently I posted as my status on Facebook: What is lacking today in many of our so-called black leaders and black media for that matter is integrity, honesty and decency. We are all going to die eventually. The question is do you want to live a life of integrity, honesty and decency, tell the truth and fight for justice, and where ever the consequences flow, let them flow…

I wrote a tribute to Ali awhile back and reposted after his death, that what made him the greatest was not just what he did in the ring but that he fought for what he believed in outside of the ring. I ask the question what superstar athlete would give up the prime of their career for a belief? Not only could no one come up with a name of an athlete, many said that goes for our black celebrities as well, our rappers, singers, actors, etc.

In BW and PBP Radio we have often echoed the sentiment of the black community in questioning, ‘who will speak for us?’ ‘Where are the black celebrities that will used their stardom to speak truth to power and speak up against injustice? Just when it looks like we may never see another stand up any time soon and not worry about the consequences but just put it all on the line, enters stage right Grey’s Anatomy actor and activist Jesse Williams who unapologetically spits knowledge and said what most in the room and around the world are thinking but don’t dare say in public much less on stage at the BET Awards at the Microsoft Theater with the whole world watching.

Delivered after accepting BET’s Humanitarian Award for his activism and being a visible part of the Black Lives Matter movement since the 2014 events in Ferguson, Mo., 34-year-old Grey’s Anatomy star Jesse Williams stole the BET Awards on Sunday night with a wildly impassionate and inspirational, nearly five-minute speech, calling for the end of police killings, racial inequality and cultural appropriations, that is bound to become a cornerstone of the Black Lives Matter movement. Later in the show, Samuel L. Jackson said he hadn’t heard a speech like it since the 1960’s. (see full video and transcript of the speech that drew thunderous applause, shouts from the audience and garnered many responses and criticisms, in its original unedited form, below).

“Peace. Peace. Thank you Debra. Thank you, Nate Parker. Thank you, Harry and Debbie Allen, for participating in that. Before we get into it, I just want to say I brought my parents out tonight — I just want to thank them for being here and teaching me to focus on comprehension over career. They made sure I learned what the schools were afraid to teach us. And also, thank you to my amazing wife for changing my life.

“Now, 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. All right? It’s kind of basic mathematics. The more we learn about who we are and how we got here, the more we will mobilize.

“Now, this is also in particular for the black women in particular who have spent their lifetimes dedicated to nurturing everyone before themselves. We can and will do better for you.

“Now, what we’ve been doing is looking at the data and we know that police somehow manage to deescalate, disarm and not kill white people every day. So what’s going to happen is we’re going to have equal rights and justice in our own country or we will restructure their function in ours.

“Now, [standing ovation] I got more, y’all.

“Yesterday would have been young Tamir Rice’s 14th birthday. So, I don’t want to hear anymore about how far we’ve come when paid public servants can pull a drive-by on a 12-year-old playing alone in a park in broad daylight, killing him on television and then going home to make a sandwich.

“Tell Rekia Boyd how it’s so much better to live in 2012, than it is to live in 1612 or 1712. Tell that to Eric Garner. Tell that to Sandra Bland. Tell that to Darrien Hunt.

“Now, 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. You’re free, they keep telling us, but she would have been alive if she hadn’t acted so free.

“Now, freedom is always coming in the hereafter but, you know what, though, the hereafter is a hustle. We want it now. And let’s get a couple of things straight here, just a little sidenote. 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.

“We’ve been floating this country on credit for centuries, yo. And we’re done watching, and waiting while this invention called whiteness uses and abuses us. Burying black people out of sight and out of mind, while extracting our culture, our dollars, our entertainment like oil — black gold. Ghettoizing and demeaning our creations then stealing them. Gentrifying our genius and then trying us on like costumes before discarding our bodies like rinds of strange fruit. The thing is, though, the thing is, that just because we’re magic doesn’t mean we’re not real. Thank you.”

BW Salutes Jesse Williams for daring to tell the truth and fight for justice, and where ever the consequences flow, let them flow. We stand with you my brother! REAL TALK!

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1 comment

Danette Chavis July 1, 2016 at 6:20 PM

The conversation on stage was well received and long over due! Particularly, on a broadcast such as BET. I can think of no other broadcast where Blacks are gathered together in numbers with thousands of their fans who are watching, to convey the speech that has been given. Kudos to JESSE WILLIAMS for having the audacity and the courage to say what needed to be said in the ear shot of all who needed to hear it!


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