Jesse Williams raised the roof at the BET Awards with the powerful, inspiring speech he gave while accepting his Humanitarian Award, but the oratory didn't stop there.
Backstage in the media room, the Grey's Anatomy star continued to spit fire about the responsibility of Black celebrities like him to speak up about injustice.
“You have artists figuring out ways to be activists and use social activism in their art, and you have folks in social activism figuring out ways to bring in art and music in their activism,” Williams continued, when speaking to the press. He then added that he hopes to see even more Black celebrities fight for the cause.
“What I’d like to see us do is return to a space where it’s OK for folks to be proud and outwardly Black in public and not have to feel like we have to be safe to live in white spaces, or to make everyone else comfortable when we’ve spent centuries being uncomfortable,” Williams said. “People are getting more comfortable being political. We live here, we pay taxes, we should be able to talk about it.”
He said that those who have “made it” have an extra responsibility to speak up.
“Just because I can dunk or act doesn’t mean I have to shut the hell up about issues that actually affect me and my people. We cannot allow them to extract from the Black community the best and brightest in a particular genre of expression that makes money for white corporations, and then separate us from the rest of the people,” he said, still fired up. “People are out here suffering. People are out here poor, and abandoned, and unsupported, and just because we get to be here tonight doesn’t mean that we’ve made it. We ain’t made it.”
Preach, Jesse. See his moving BET Awards speech in its entirety, above.
(Photo: Kevin Winter/BET/Getty Images for BET)