“Wokeness” in 2016 has oddly become a status symbol more than a vehicle for change. Thankfully, Jesse Williams just tossed that notion out the window with a powerful wakeup call.
The actor and activist is this year’s recipient of the BET Humanitarian award, and his beautifully eloquent, honest and sobering speech was so moving, it became an instant trending topic. He urges: “If you have no interest in equal rights for Black people, then do not make suggestions for those who do. Sit down.”
He continues his inspiring dialogue:
“A system meant to divide and impoverish and destroy us cannot stand if we do. 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 [award] in particular is also for the Black women, who have spent their lifetimes dedicated to nurturing everybody 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 gonna happen is, we’re gonna 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 Rakia Boyd how it’s so much better to live in 2012 than it is 1612 or 1712. Tell that to Eric Garner. Tell that To Sandra Bland. Tell that to Dorian Hunt. Now the thing is though, all of us in here getting money…that alone isn’t gonna stop this. Dedicating our lives to getting money just to give it right back for someone’s brand on our bodies, 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 we haven’t fought and died on the front lines of. There’s been no job haven’t done. There’s 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 have been alive if she hadn’t acted so…free. Now, freedom is always coming in the hereafter, but the hereafter is a hustle. We want it now.”
He ends his speech with a chilling reminder that, once again, Black Lives Matter. “Just because we’re magic, doesn’t mean we’re not real.”
Let the church say amen!
See the full speech below:
IMAGE/VIDEO: BET, GETTY