Jesse Williams Is the Modern Day Harry Belafonte

LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 26:  Actor Jesse Williams attends the 2016 BET Awards at the Microsoft Theater on June 26, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

Jesse Williams Is the Modern Day Harry Belafonte

“Just because we are magic doesn't mean we're not real.”

Published June 26, 2016

Debra Lee described 2016 BET Humanitarian Award honoree Jesse Williams as “the essence of a modern civil rights legend in the making and a booming voice of community activism.” 

He marched side-by-side with Ferguson protesters. He uses his Twitter fingers to showcase his frustration with systemic racism, cultural appropriation and misrepresentation and political outrage like this and this. Harry Belafonte is a musician, actor and outspoken activist. He has supported UNICEF, spoken out against U.S. military actions overseas, referred to a former president as a “terrorist,” but never apologized for his actions or remarks, stating, “You are serving those who continue to design our oppression." Jesse Williams is our 2016 Belafonte.

He has no problem expressing his opinions on racial issues, clapping back at presidential nominees or supporting causes that help the progress of Black people and our culture unapologetically. Jesse gives us more than explosive rhetoric. He is on the board of the Advancement Project and Sankofa.org and is an active supporter of Amnesty International, Black Aids Institute, K.I.S Foundation, the Magic Johnson Foundation and Stockings With Care.

His acceptance speech sent Black Twitter into a thankful frenzy for voicing our struggles so eloquently and so profoundly:

“Now the thing is, though, all of us in here getting money…that alone isn’t gonna stop this. Now, 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 with brands on our bodies. There has been no war that we have not fought and died in the front lines of. There’s no job we have not done. There’s no tax they have not levied against us.

"Freedom is somehow conditional here. You’re ‘free,’ they keep telling us, but she would’ve been alive if she hadn’t acted so free. 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 of things straight. Just a side note, the burden of the brutalized is not to comfort the bystander. That’s not our job. 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 in equal rights for Black people, then do not make suggestions to those that do. Sit down.”

There’s nothing more attractive than a man who’s woke in his own history, eloquent and passionate about real change and in sharing his thoughts. There’s nothing cute about embracing and promoting stereotypes that undermine us as a people and a culture. Take notes and stay woke. Thank you, Jesse.

Written by Mya Abraham

(Photo: Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

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