The BET Awards Speech Every Activist Needs to See

(ANTIMEDIA) Los Angeles, CA — If there were ever a moment where one could drop the mic and walk away it was this one,Ebony magazine wrote.  Los Angeles activist, Kwazi Nkrumah, said, “This is one of the very best public statements on the questions of race, racism and the Black Lives Matter movement that ANYONE has made!BET wrote, “Jesse Williams speaks for us all and says what many of us have felt for a long time.”

On the day after what should have been Tamir Rice’s fourteenth birthday, Grey’s Anatomy star Jesse Williams was honored by BET with a humanitarian award for his role in the black civil rights liberation movement. Williams recently produced a documentary about the Movement for Black Lives titled Stay Woke: The Black Lives Matter Movement. Jesse Williams uses his Twitter and Instagram accounts, @iJesseWilliams, to speak out on issues of racial justice, police brutality, and other human rights concerns.

In his powerful, inspiring, and emotionally moving speech, Williams acknowledged organizers, activists, and people in the struggle — especially, black women. He spoke about police brutality, saying the names of Tamir Rice, Rekia Boyd, Eric Garner, Sandra Bland, and Darrien Hunt. He highlighted how police “manage to de-escalate, disarm and not kill white people every day.” He inspired hope by proclaiming, “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.”

Williams addressed white critiques of Black lives Matter:

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.

He spoke about America’s love of black culture and simultaneous hate of black people, as well as the inappropriateness of cultural appropriation:

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.”

For the black community who listened — and those at the ceremony who gave a standing ovation throughout — these words were not new. The speech is historically significant because Williams articulated more clearly and to a wider audience what the black community has been saying for decades — and right now the black community is more mobilized for civil rights than they have been in decades.

It is our duty to fight for our freedom.

“It is our duty to win.

“We must love each other and support each other.

“We have nothing to lose but our chains.”

Assata Shakur

This article (The BET Awards Speech Every Activist Needs to See) is free and open source. You have permission to republish this article under a Creative Commons license with attribution to PM Beers and Anti-Media Radio airs weeknights at 11pm Eastern/8pm Pacific. If you spot a typo, email