Actor Jesse Williams fires up BET Awards, Twitter with powerful speech


The multiple Prince tributes and Beyonce’s aquatic surprise were among the many buzzworthy moments from Sunday’s BET Awards, but who knew an acceptance speech from “Grey’s Anatomy” star and Humanitarian Award recipient Jesse Williams would not only win the night, but possibly spark a new round of Black activism.

Actor Jesse Williams accepts the Humanitarian Award at the 2016 BET Awards at the Microsoft Theater on June 26 in Los Angeles.(PHOTOS COURTESY OF BET.COM)
Actor Jesse Williams accepts the Humanitarian Award at the 2016 BET Awards at the Microsoft Theater on June 26 in Los Angeles.

Not long after his six-minute speech had the audience at Los Angele’s Microsoft Theater on their feet cheering, the hashtags #activistbae and #wokebae began trending on Twitter.

“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 trying us on like costumes before discarding our bodies,” he said onstage.

From police brutality to wearing ‘brands’
In addition to cultural appropriation, Williams’ speech also touched on police brutality (“police somehow manage to de-escalate, disarm and not kill White people everyday”), and targeted those who complain about the disruptive tactics of Black Lives Matter.

160701_entertainment01b“The burden of the brutalized is not to comfort the bystander. That’s not our job, alright? Stop with all that,” he said. “If you have a critique for the resistance, then you better have an established record of critique of our oppression.”

He gave a massive shoutout to Black women, “who have spent their lifetimes dedicated to nurturing everyone before themselves. We can and will do better for you.”

Williams also spoke out about the culture’s emphasis on materialism, eloquently using the term “brands on our bodies” to reference both slavery and designer clothing.

Williams has been “woke” for many years. Aside from sharing his vision of Black America via Twitter, he has written articles about race for CNN and The Huffington Post; he’s the youngest member of the board of directors at The Advancement Project, a civil rights think tank and advocacy group; and he executive produced and starred in the documentary “Stay Woke: Black Lives Matter,” which aired on BET in May.


Here’s a list of the winners
of the 2016 BET Awards.

Best Actress
Taraji P. Henson

Best Actor
Michael B. Jordan

Youngstars Award
Amandla Stenberg

Best Movie
“Straight Outta Compton”

Sportswoman of the Year
Serena Williams

Sportsman of the Year
Stephen Curry

Centric Award
Beyoncé, “Formation”

Best International Act: UK

Best International Act: Africa
Black Coffee (South Africa)

Best Female R&B/Pop Artist
Best Male R&B/Pop Artist
Bryson Tiller

Best Group
Drake and Future

Best Collaboration
Rihanna featuring Drake – “Work”

Best Male Hip Hop Artist

Best Female Hip Hop Artist
Nicki Minaj

Video of the Year
Beyoncé, “Formation’’

Video Director of the Year
Director X

Best New Artist
Bryson Tiller

Best Gospel Award
Kirk Franklin

Humanitarian Award
Jesse Williams

Lifetime Achievement Award
Samuel L. Jackson


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