Hollywood actor Jesse Williams has had one of the realest moments of 2016 by giving an inspiring speech at the BET Awards. Nigerian celebrities can take a clue from him.
“Now the thing is though, all of us in here getting money, that alone isn’t going to stop this. All right? Now dedicating our lives to get 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” Jesse Williams told the audience.
“The burden of the brutalized is not to comfort the bystander. That’s not our job, all right, 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...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” the actor further said.
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Definitely this will go down as one of the best acceptance speeches ever at any award ceremony. A lot has been said about black celebrities concerning racism, police brutality and cultural appropriation but Williams’ speech is the defining summary of the struggle of African Americans within this context of celebrity activism. He deserved more than a standing ovation, he deserved a medal.
Jesse Williams’ speech should serve as an inspiration to a lot of celebrities. With a lot of influence and power they can get a lot of things done and help start asking questions about important things we are facing as Nigerians.
No one is saying that celebrities should protest on the road or carry placards in front of government houses. Standing on a stage and giving an inspiring or rousing speech can do a whole lot more than cliché protests. Even a well constructed tweet can do a whole lot more than a march.
The stark reality is that African-Americans have it way better than Africans but they are more vocal on societal issues. Their celebrities are more vocal. Partying and have fun is all good, the BET was essentially a party celebrating black excellence in the Performing Arts, but during this festivity Jesse Williams was bold enough to speak truth to millions of Americans.
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We need more jarring moments like this over here to wake us up from the false sense of security we have. I know a lot of celebrities are scared of making a statement that could piss the government off. They don’t have to be confrontational or direct, messages of hope and inspiration and making people realize that we deserve more will spark minds without ruffling too many feathers.
Major salute to Jesse Williams for his powerful words at the BET Awards, hopefully it will inspire and spur a few of his contemporaries on this side of the world to do something.