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In his acceptance speech for his Humanitarian Award at the 2016 BET Awards, Jesse Williams moved the audience to tears.
The awards show honored Williams’ activism in the Black Lives Matter movement, including his involvement in protests at Ferguson, Missouri, after the shooting of teenager Michael Brown.
On Sunday evening Williams took to the stage to thank his parents and his wife for all their support. He humbly dedicated the award to those who are actively involved in the social justice movement. “Now, this award, this is not for me, this is for the real organizers all over the country, activist civil rights attorneys, the parents, the teachers, the students who are realizing that a system built to divide and impoverish and destroy us cannot stand if we do. All right?” he stated. “It’s kind of basic mathematics, the more we learn about who we are and how we got here, the more we will mobilize.”
Williams added, “Now, this is also in particular for the black women who have spent their lifetime dedicated to nurturing everyone before themselves, we can and will do better for you.”
In his speech, the 34-year-old Grey’s Anatomy actor discussed the injustices experienced by black communities across the United States. “Yesterday would’ve 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 a 12-year-old playing alone in a park in broad daylight, killing him on television then going home to make a sandwich.”
“Tell Rekia Boyd how it’s so much better to live in 2012 than 1612 or 1712. Tell that to Eric Garner. Tell that to Sandra Bland. Tell that to Darrien Hunt.”
Williams’ call to action brought actor Jamie Foxx to tears. “We’ve been floating this country on credit for centuries, 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. Ghettoizing and demeaning our creations and gentrifying our genius and then trying us on like costumes before discarding our bodies like rinds of strange fruit.”
“Freedom is always coming in the hereafter, but, you know what the hereafter is a hustle. We want it now. And let’s get a couple things straight—the burden of the brutalized is not to comfort the bystander. That’s not our job. Stop with all that,” Williams stated. “If you have a critique for our resistance then you better have an establish record of your critique of our impression. If you have no interest, in equal rights for black people than do not make suggestions to those who do. Sit down.”
Watch Jesse Williams’ moving speech below: