Jesse Williams Had More to Say After BET Speech
Jesse Williams shut down the BET Awards Sunday night with a scorching speech that not only challenged racism and called for direct action to end oppression, but also implored the artists in the room to speak up for Black folks too.
“A system built to divide, impoverish and destroy us cannot stand if we do,” he said. Williams is a fervent supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement and was honored for his work. “It’s kinda basic mathematics: The more we learn about who we are and how we got here, the more we will mobilize.”
After he left the stage, the Grey’s Anatomy star and EBONY Power 100 honoree, hit the media room to expand on his call for Black folks, and particularly Black celebrities, to “get political” and pushback against anti-Blackness.
“You have artists figuring out ways to be activists and use social activism in their art, and you have folks in social activism figuring out ways to bring in art and music in their activism,” said Williams, who received a standing ovation from the media backstage.
After giving props to those who are speaking up, Williams said he hopes to see even more Black celebrities be vocal about issues such a police brutality, racism, sexism, and economic injustice.
“What I’d like to see us do is return to a space where it’s okay for folks to be proud and outwardly Black in public and not have to feel like we have to be safe to live in white spaces, or to make everyone else comfortable when we’ve spent centuries being uncomfortable,” Williams said. “People are getting more comfortable being political. We live here, we pay taxes, we should be able to talk about it.”
Williams also rejected the idea that those Black Americans who have “made it” should just be happy with their accomplishments instead of fighting for those who haven’t.
“Just because I can dunk or act doesn’t mean I have to shut the hell up about issues that actually affect me and my people. We cannot allow them to extract from the Black community the best and brightest in a particular genre of expression that makes money for white corporations, and then separate us from the rest of the people,” he said, still fired up. “People are out here suffering. People are out here poor, and abandoned, and unsupported, and just because we get to be here tonight doesn’t mean that we’ve made it. We ain’t made it.”
Can Jesse get an amen?
Missed his scorching BET Awards acceptance speech? Watch it below.