What we learned about Jesse Williams’ parents during his fiery BET speech

Jesse Williams accepts the 2016 BET Humanitarian Award (Photo Credit: Kevin Winter/BET)
Jesse Williams accepts the 2016 BET Humanitarian Award (Photo Credit: Kevin Winter/BET)

On Sunday, June 26, activist and “Grey’s Anatomy” actor Jesse Williams commanded the stage at the BET Awards to accept the honor for this year’s BET Humanitarian Award. We learned Williams bark complemented his bite when he traveled to Ferguson, Missouri to participate in protests after the shooting of Michael Brown. Here’s his phenomenal speech, and a salute to his parents for his strong foundation, in its entirety:

Peace peace. Thank you, Debra. Thank you, BET. Thank you Nate Parker, 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 teaching me to focus on comprehension over career. They made sure I learned what the school didn’t want to teach me.This award is not for me it is for the organizers around the country. The activists. The civil rights attorneys. The struggling parents, the teachers, the students that are realize that a system built to impoverish and destroy us cannot stand if we do. It’s basic mathematics. The more we learn about who we are and how we got here, the more we will mobilize.

This is 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.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 are going to have equal rights and justice in our own country or we will restructure their function in ours.

Yesterday would have been young Tamir Rice’s 14th birthday. So I don’t want to hear any more 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.

All of us in here getting money, that alone isn’t going to stop this. Dedicating our lives to get money just to give it right back for someone’s brand on our body when we spent centuries with brands on our bodies and now we pray to get paid for brands on 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, no tax they haven’t levied against us and we have paid all of them. Freedom is somehow always conditional here. “You’re free,” they keep telling us. “But she would have been alive it 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—just a little side note. 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’d 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, 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, just because we’re magic doesn’t mean we’re not real.

Thank you.

In May, Williams executive-produced Stay Woke, a documentary which traced the evolution of the Black Lives Matter movement and debuted on BET in May. He serves on the boards of the Advancement Project and Sankofa.org, and executive produced the documentary art installation/website “Question Bridge: Black Males.”

Yvette Caslin
Yvette Caslin

I'm a writer, image architect & significance marketer. Love photojournalism, creative expression & originality.



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