It’s still trending on social media.
My mom sent me several links on Facebook.
It was all over the news on TV, on radio and online.
People were asking me about it wherever I went.
What am I talking about?
“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. (applause) alright.”
There are acceptance speeches and then there are acceptance speeches.
I think it’s fair to say that this one by Jesse Williams at Sunday night’s BET Aeards was off the charts.
Williams spoke of the struggle of black women who are sometimes let down by black men, telling them that, “We can and will do better for you.”
A few women in the audience stood up.
But this is when the entire room got up.
“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 every day. 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 (applause).”
He referenced young and older people of color killed by police like Tamir Rice and Eric Garner.
I’m sure most of those listening to this and reading it later on Black America Web have heard the entire speech, and you have your favorite lines from the speech.
But the one that stood out to me is this one, the one I hope didn’t go over anyone’s head.
“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 was a whole let packed into those sentences – the power we place on labels, wearing somebody else’s names on our backs, or on the other end of the spectrum being in a position to get paid for wearing someone else’s brand on our backs.
It’s also like wearing someone else’s hair on our heads- weaves- which Whoopi Goldberg pointed out in response to William’s reference to cultural appropriation.
Whoopi – “When you see all these wonderful black women with these blond hair that is a weave.”
Sunny – “But that is because black women have been taught all these years that that is the standard of beauty.”
Whoopi – “No, we’re trying to get to the place where everyone can say I’m as good as you. That’s what everybody’s doing. So if we’re appropriating they’re appropriating. Everybody, Japanese are appropriating, black folks are appropriating, Spanish people are appropriating, we are appropriating each other. It’s not just a black thing. It’s happening all over the place. We do it all the time. We go get Botox we don’t need. Come on.”
Tough, but true.
What is also true is what Jesse Williams said about if you have a critique for the resistance, then you’d better have an established record of critique of our oppression.
And he is also right about our magic – black magic.
Who could deny that there is something magical about surviving centuries of slavery and oppression and yet we still rise?
The 2016 BET Awards In Photos
1. Laila Ali1 of 22
2. Tracee Ellis Ross, Anthony Hamilton and Anthony Anderson2 of 22
3. Samuel L. Jackson3 of 22
4. Janelle Monae4 of 22
5. Desiigner5 of 22
6. Toni Braxton6 of 22
7. French Montana7 of 22
8. Bilal8 of 22
9. Alicia Keys9 of 22
10. Stevie Wonder and Tori Kelly10 of 22
11. Jennifer Hudson11 of 22
12. Janelle Monae12 of 22
13. Jamie Foxx13 of 22
14. Debra Lee and Jesse Williams14 of 22
15. Beyonce and Kendrick Lamar15 of 22
16. Bryson Tiller16 of 22
17. Jesse Williams17 of 22
18. Sheila E18 of 22
19. Laila Ali19 of 22
20. Taraji P. Henson20 of 22
21. Tracee Ellis Ross21 of 22
22. Future22 of 22
Don Lemon: The BET Speech Heard Round The World, But Were You Listening? was originally published on blackamericaweb.comfeed