Now I will not make any falsies: No, I did not watch the entire 2016 BET Awards Show.
To be quite honest, I really didn’t feel like torturing myself with listening to music that does not serenade my ears. And unfortunately with the exception of a few artists that are still on the mainstream today, music has become quite the unpleasant experience for me. Not because I don’t love music – because I truly do. But it saddens me that music has gone from teaching a message to the mere ramblings of 2 Chains and Future. So no, I didn’t catch it all. But the portion that I did catch (like so many of us) was the Jesse Williams piece on being black.
I can’t really call it a speech, because it was so much more. It was nourishment, education and food for our souls. I absolutely loved his eloquence in expressing his heartfelt personal depiction of what it means for him to be black. What left me floored and in awe of Jesse was not that he is oh-so-fine (’cause he is definitely that), but the fact that he used his platform to speak life into a hurting, struggling, grief-stricken people. He could have taken to the stage and thanked his manager, mom, dad and wife and sat down. But instead this brother wanted his people to know that he is connected and watching and pushing and hurting right along with the rest of us. He was not hesitant to acknowledge the recent police brutality cases among the black community, and called out Rekia Boyd, Sandra Bland, Tamir Rice Dorian Hunt and Eric Garner, letting their families know that they had not been forgotten. He talked of structuring our communities in such a way that if we are not treated as equal, we stand alone. He spoke of our need in the black community to occasionally be labeled whores to the already rich as opposed to making our own mark on society and labeling ourselves as free.
This piece will surely go down in history as one of the most unselfish and outstanding public gestures by an actor/artist. As I sat in my home watching Jesse speak, I watched as the crowd stood to their feet to applaud him for this move. What I also thought is that there was not one of them that did it. He stood alone, and for that he will forever in my eyes hold a spot in the 21st Century’s list of civil rights activists. The points that he touched upon were necessary. A few of them were hard truths that America needed to hear. And he delivered it with elegance and graciousness.
By Kimberly Johnson
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