Jesse William delivered a powerful speech following his Humanitarian Award at the BET Awards.
It was another great year at the BET awards. Honoring the best of the African Americans and minorities in the entertainment industry. One of the most important award of the night was the Humanitarian Award, introduced and announced by BET Chairwoman and CEO Debra Lee.
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Before she could announce the recipient, the played a short video to honour this year’s winner, Jesse Williams. More commonly known as Dr. Jackson Avery on Grey’s Anatomy, it has been Jesse’s off-screen work that earned him the award.
Debra Lee described him as a tireless champion of change, and a voice for the voiceless," she added that Jesse Williams is the essence of a modern civil rights legend in the making.
And a true pioneer of our new generation of leaders. Jesse then stepped on stage. He thanked his parents for teaching him everything and making his life better. He thanked his wife for changing his life.
Then Jesse broke into his speech. He dedicated the award to the real organizers all over the country, activist civil rights attorneys, the parents, the teachers, the students who are realizing that a system built to divide and impoverish and destroy us cannot stand if we do. He honored the black women who had raised them and put everyone before themselves. He promised them that they would do better for them.
He remembered Tamir Rice, Rekia Boyd, Eric Garner, Sandra Bland and Darrien Hunt. He said that the room full of people who were earning money and putting other people’s brand on their bodies did not justify all the people who had worked with brands on their bodies.
He said that there was no war they had not fought in and no job they had not done. Still there was no tax they are exempt from paying. Still we are not free. According to USAToday, he said that they tell us we’re free but shoot us down every time we act free.
He noted in a compassionate tone that, “The burden of the brutalized is not to comfort the bystander. That’s not our job. Alright, 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.”
He added that “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 tho, the thing is, that just because we’re magic doesn’t mean we’re not real.”
With that he finished to the whole theatre giving him a standing ovation for his inspired words.
In October 2014, Williams stood with thousands of others in Ferguson, Missouri to protest the shooting of unarmed teen Michael Brown and ensure he did not pass away in vain.
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Williams was also an executive producer and actor in Stay Woke, a 2014 a documentary chronicling the birth and growth of the Black Lives Matter movement that premiered last May on BET. He used every outlet at his disposal to make sure that the message behind the Black Lives Matter movement was heard.