I couldn’t go to bed tonight without posting this amazing speech by Jesse Williams on the blog and writing about my thoughts on it. I have been a fan and follower of him for a while and his documentary Stay Woke: The Black Lives Matter Movement is on my watch list to review and discuss on the blog after Ramadan. To my surprise, yesterday I woke up to the blessing that is the speech below at BET awards where he spoke truth to power and spoke so eloquently about the injustice and oppression that black people have had to face in America. Lord only knows how many times I’ve listened to it because I’ve genuinely lost count. Unfortunately the video is not on Youtube so I’ve had to link it from Twitter below.
Can I just start by saying that the entire speech just felt like poetry? He was dropping bars with every sentence and I was not prepared for the hard truths that came my way, and I love the fact that he delivered it so unapologetically and rightly so! I thought it was amazing that right from the start he dedicated the award to everyone involved in the struggle and the movement . The award was for his humanitarian efforts in the Black Lives Matter movement but the reality is that there are so many men and women who have dedicated and are dedicating their lives to helping others and they do it without the intention to receive acknowledgment or fame for their work, so his acknowledgement that he’s just a piece of the grand puzzle was significant. The icing on the cake was the special dedication to the selflessness of black women which had me like: Thank you Jesse. Thank you for stating it cloud and clear !!!
From mentioning the names of some of the black people that have been killed by police in America, to referencing the fact that “police somehow manage to deescalate, disarm and not kill white people everyday”, to what would have been the 14th birthday of Tamir Rice to the moment he mentioned that Sandra Bland would have been alive “if she hadn’t acted so… free.”
I was close to tears at this point and my hands were uncontrollably clapping for him. I couldn’t stop it and I didn’t want to stop. This was a speech that we all needed to hear and everyone in the room was on their feet clapping as well. But there was even more truths to come people. Pheww
My love for the speech skyrocketed the moment he mentioned to a room full of some of the richest and most influential black people that we are, “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.”
Not only was he speaking truth to power about a society that oppresses black people and has denied them equal rights, freedom and justice for so long, he called out a room full of influential black people for their silence in the face of the oppression of their own people because of their insane obsession with money and brands. That moment reminded me of one of the reasons why Muhammad Ali earned the love and respect of people worldwide. He was outspoken for justice and equality regardless of how much it cost him including his money and titles. None of that was enough to silence him and it really is saddening to see so many influential black people fail to use their platform wisely. Jesse William’s is a perfect example of how it can be done and how important it is because that speech was trending for at least half a day. He uses his platform in the entertainment industry to shed light on important issues, enlighten people and lend his support to important causes for justice and social issues.
In the last part of his speech he said, “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.”
I was speechless at this point because it was just so articulate and emotive that I was just like Jesse, you dropped the mic! We have to stop turning a blind eye to the fact that talent and culture of black people is being monetised by the very same people that abuse and oppress black people. I will be doing a ‘Let’s Talk’ post on cultural appropriation soon because this is a topic that is more than worthy of further discussion. With that, I leave you with the full transcript of the speech below.
Full transcript of the speech
Now, 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 deescalate, disarm and not kill white people everyday. 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.
Now… I got more y’all – yesterday would have 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 12 year old playing alone in the park in broad daylight, killing him on television and then going home to make a sandwich. Tell Rekia Boyd how it’s so much better than it is 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, 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 front lines of. There has been no job we haven’t done. There is no tax they haven’t leveed 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 you know what, though, the hereafter is a hustle. We want it now.
And let’s get a couple things straight, just a little sidenote – the burden of the brutalized is not to comfort the bystander.That’s not our job, alright – 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, 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… the thing is that just because we’re magic doesn’t mean we’re not real.
I need those words on a sweatshirt so I can rep it loud and clear.