Jesse Wesley Williams (born August 5, 1981) is an American actor, model, and activist, best known for his role as Dr. Jackson Avery on the ABC Television series Grey’s Anatomy. Williams is the youngest member of the board of directors at The Advancement Project, a civil rights think tank and advocacy group. 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.
Jesse Williams delivered a powerful acceptance speech at the BET awards on Sunday night. After Williams received the Humanitarian award at the BET (Black Entertainment Television) awards, for his civil rights activism, the 34-year-old addressed the audience.
Delivering a rousing speech on continuing racial inequalities in America, Williams dedicated his awards to activists, teachers, civil rights lawyers, parent, students, families and black women in particular.
Here follows the full 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. 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.
Yesterday would’ve been young Tamir Rice’s 14th birthday, so I don’t want to hear anymore 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 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. 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’.
Freedom is always coming in the hereafter, but, you know what though, the hereafter is a hustle. 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, stop with all that. If you have a critique for the resistance, 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, 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. Ghettoising 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, just because we’re magic, doesn’t mean we’re not real.”