I considered writing this last night, but I needed time to savor every morsel of Jesse Williams' BET Humanitarian Award acceptance speech. My soul feasted on the nourishment of his words as I slept. I woke up more conscious, renewed, and determined - strong in all of my black girl magic.
I will start here; I do not typically watch the BET Awards in real time. I often have other (more important) things to do than experience the hottest trap artist or sit through a painful, unfunny bit with a reality star. But last night…last night I was supernaturally compelled to tune in - after the opening performance, of course (sips limeade). I thought my curiosity was about the Prince Tribute, and shout out to Sheila E. for smashing the stage, but clearly there was a greater purpose. His name is Jesse Williams.
To be clear, I am not a novice to Mr. Williams’ community efforts. He has been vocal for some time and I have been here for it all along. He consistently has one of the loudest voices in moments of civil unrest, as our brothers and sisters get slaughtered in the streets, jail cells, police cars, etc. Jesse is unapologetic in his beliefs and is not afraid to speak and walk in truth - regardless of his profession or heritage. And while I believe him to be a warrior, I cannot stand with the #jesseforpresident hashtag. Jesse is not who lives in the White House. Jesse is who folks in the White House are accountable to.
Big ups to BET for allowing truth bombs to be dropped all over the stage like pyrotechnics. That was incredibly ballsy and absolutely necessary. Here’s the thing, though, were the folks who needed to hear this truth, listening? Have they read the transcript? I’m not sure, cause listen, I know LOTS of folks who think they are super down with the cause, and nan one of them has said ONE DAMN WORD about this here speech. Wonder why(?) How can you so love a culture – its asses, hair, lips, music, and vernacular, but when the rubber meets the road, you go mute, or you’re on some “all lives matter” ish? Real question. I really want to understand this.
Jesse’s speech was so full of knowledge, as I continue to read it, I find more and more nuggets. I am going to just post those points that are haunting me.
“Tell Rakia Boyd how it’s so much better to live in 2012 than it is to live in 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. Alright? 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, 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 frontlines of, there has been no job that we have not done, there is no tax they haven’t levied against us. 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.
“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, 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, that just because we’re magic doesn’t mean we’re not real. ”
I understand that we evolve into levels of consciousness at different stages. I am also quite aware that some of us deliberately avoid it. I pray that Jesse’s speech pricks that space in your spirit that is longing to be engaged.