“A system built to divide and impoverish and destroy us cannot stand if we do.”
Yesterday’s BET awards made musical history with artists actively voicing their political opinions on and off stage, of course with musical talent and celebration of culture but what is still resonating with anyone that watched the awards are the words of Jesse Williams as he accepted BET’s Humanitarian Award.
Williams words will have a resounding impact on those with a platform to contribute to social change and community building. He spoke poetically and with the utmost intelligence and strength about the facts and fallacies of equal rights and justice in our nation, and conditional freedom. I could go on about the cold hard honesty of his correlation between spending “centuries praying with brands on our bodies, and now we pray to get paid for brands on our bodies,” referring to the obsession in the hip hop community, and celebs in general with “who” or what they are wearing. Or about his candid description of what happened to young Tamir Rice but it would not do this speech justice. Below is a transcription of his speech and the video. I suggest watching the video and then reading the transcription.
We need more of this, intelligent, proud, honest, strong leaders who are dedicated to a cause. Williams presence and speech is the fire needed to ignite the torch of humanitarianism and hunger in many.
“Peace peace. Thank you, Debra. Thank you, BET. Thank you Nate Parker, Harry and Debbie Allen for participating in that .
Before we get into it, I just want to say I brought my parents out tonight. I just want to thank them for being here, for teaching me to focus on comprehension over career, and that they make sure I learn what the schools were afraid to teach us. And also thank my amazing wife for changing my life.
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 toEric 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.