Jesse Williams: A Poetic Declaration of Truth! [Video]
For decades the B.E.T Awards has brought some of the most influential people in entertainment together to acknowledge, support, and honor actors and musicians for their many accomplishments, endeavors, and work within or for the Black community. The show has been renowned for its smashing performances and out of the box presentations. It has become an award show that (for many) is the highlight of the year to see who will collaborate with whom, who will win what award, and what moments will be the unforgettable moments of the year. However, for me, the Black Entertainment Television Awards have more than fallen short of awesome and amazing and substance, that is, until this year. There was a monumental moment of truth, outcry, demand, and a declaration for a people - to a people - tired of being shut up, killed, and medially forgotten. That moment was named Jesse Williams.
Winner of the B.E.T Humanitarian Award for all his work and activism in underserved and under respected communities, Jesse gave a speech that not only resonated with a nation but that declared on “…this invention called Whiteness…” that we (Black/Brown communities) will no longer stand for the injustice that has been, for hundreds of years, a plague on Black life.
I can not assume to know what Jesse’s speech did (or meant) to the masses. I can only articulate what showered over my own heart, mind, and body. As a man of Mixed heritage (like Jesse) I find it, often, so difficult to be a pillar in a war when everyone else doesn’t look at you as equal. I have lived in a world lodged between the Black and Brown struggle having been told on both fronts that I am neither Black enough to understand and not Mexican enough to have a foundational voice. However, as I sat in my friends den to watch this award show - to watch and listen to Jesse’s speech - I was reminded that my voice is as influential and important as anyone else who is living in this world and experiencing the oppression and mass murder of minorities.
Jesse’s words not only educated, challenged, and opened eyes but it (unaware to those he was speaking to) slashed and tore down the egoistic monstrosity that has become Black icons in entertainment. It was such a juxtaposition to hear his words,
“Now dedicating our lives to getting money just to give it right back for someone’s brand on our body, when we spent centuries praying with brands on our bodies.”
As cameras panned the audience full of entertainers with their million dollar chains and branded out shirts and other attire, it was the moment of irony that struck me most. That the masses in one singular moment of truth can applaud and shout in solidarity that Jesse’s speech was monumental and life changing, yet going right back to the very mindset he spoke out against as the next rapper hit the stage to rap about getting more money, drinking till you get drunk and smashing as many hoes as possible.
Jesse’s speech was, by far, a moment that will go down (for me) as one of the greatest moments ever. Why? Because this man has been living and pushing, breathing and sweating this message - this truth - for years! This is not just a great award speech from an actor on a show loved by millions. This was a speech given by a teacher who has seen first hand what the injustice and gentrification processes do to our youth and the communities that encompass them. This was a speech from a man who grew up in a house with a White mother and a Black father who knew first hand what it was to break sociologic norms and be brutalized for it. This was a speech from a man who, though he is biracial, will always be labeled and looked at as a Black man. It is a speech from a man who no more denies his Whiteness than he tries to overcompensate for his Blackness. He is simply a man of color speaking out about the injustices that continue on other men, women, and children of color. This was a speech from a man who’s very being is wrapped in social change, equality for all races who have historically been denied true justice in this country. Despite the fact that the very foundations of America were tended on the backs of slaves and the blood of generations who long came before us. This was not just a speech for Jesse. It was and is a truth that permeates through every single solitary vein of his being.
It was a speech that not only made him even more of a role model and icon but one that is sure to mark him an even greater threat and a larger target for the mass machine of White privilege and supremacy. As I listen to his speech over and over again to digest the very meat of his eloquent address to the people, I am both challenged and ashamed. Challenged to be more and do more work that is hands-on for my community. Yet, I am ashamed for my communities and leaders that cause for his words to still be so very poignant in 2016. It angers and saddens me that this message HAS to be made, that we are not already in a place where this particular speech becomes second nature to all people involved.
Jesse, I congratulate you for the win of this award, but I applaud you for who you’ve always been. Thank you for this monumental reminder of the work that still needs to be done for us and by us.
Feature Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia- Creative Commons License