I am happy to see a new generation of black artists and entertainers finally stepping up and speaking out against injustice and oppression. In the spirit of Muhammad Ali, these entertainers are now using their celebrity status to speak out against police brutality, racism, and other social ills. The latest example was shown at the 2016 BET Awards.
The highlight of the evening was the moving Humanitarian Award acceptance speech delivered by Jessie Williams. Williams is a former teacher who plays the role of Dr. Jackson Avery on "Grey's Anatomy and his speech emphasized racial injustice, police brutality, and cultural appropriation. Watch and listen to Williams full acceptance speech below.
Williams is on the board of The Advancement Project, civil rights think tank and advocacy group. Williams participate in Ferguson October in 2014 to protest the killing of Michael Brown. He is also the executive producer of Question Bridge: Black Males, a multifaceted media project, art exhibition, student, and teacher curriculum and website, focused on the black male identity and the diversity within the demographic. He has written articles for CNN and The Huffington Post and has been a guest on Wolf Blitzer's The Situation Room.
Full text of Williams Speech
“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 de-escalate, 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 and ours.
Now — I’ve got more, y’all. Yesterday would’ve 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 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 get money just to give it right back for someone’s brand on our body, when we spent centuries praying 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, there’s been no tax they haven’t levied against us, and we’ve paid all of them. But freedom is somehow always conditional here. “You’re free,” they keep telling us. But she would’ve 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, 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 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.”
Beyonce and Kendrick Lamar
Beyonce and Kendrick Lamar gave an outstanding opening performance at the BET Awards that set the tone for the rest of the evening. The video is below.
Many entertainers want to speak out, but some are afraid of the repercussions, that's why your support is important and needed more than ever. As these artists become more vocal about the injustice and oppression in our community, there will be backlash and allegations lodged against them, maybe similar to the media attack of Bill Cosby. In the future, if some of our more vocal entertainers are targeted by negative propaganda, allegations, and comments, use your critical thinking skills before automatically believing allegations simply because they appear in mass media.
When our artists are unfairly targeted, we need to not only support them but we need to stand up against and boycott those companies and institutions involved. My eyes were further opened this spring when companies spoke out and some were threatening to boycott Georgia and North Caroline because of proposed religious freedom laws that would have impacted the LGBT communities. Those companies did the right thing, but that's when I realized they did the wrong thing when they didn't speak up about stop and frisk, police killings of unarmed people and other injustice. In the future when businesses the black community supports doesn't support us back, stop supporting them. You don't need a formal boycott or movement. When a company isn't doing what you think they should do, just stop doing business with that company and send them a note stating why you stopped doing business with them, otherwise, they'll never know.