Jesse Williams is Brilliant » VSB

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Jesse Williams is Brilliant

Gabe Ginsberg/Getty Images for BET

 

Apparently, God woke up one fine mornting and she said you know what it’s a Friday and I ain’t got shit to do. Except it was actually Wednesday, August 5, 1981. On this day I shall give y’all Earth heathens a man. He will be smart. He’s gon’ be famous. And y’all don’t say “woke” yet, but you will in, ohh, 20 or so years, so he will be woke AF. He will have an unparalleled amount of ordacity. AND because I give absolutely no damns, he’s gone be wrapped up in a fine package that coincidentally aligns with the clusterfuck beauty standards white peepo created and y’all continue to uphold, but nevertheless here this nicca is. And Jesse Williams was like, “thanks fam.”

My timelines during Jesse Williams’ speech last night as he accepted BET’s Humanitarian Award at their annual awards show was saturated with female feelings about the actor-turned activist-turned perfect human. But it was a particular kind of woman reacting to him. It was the good type of woman yo mama says you better lock down before somebody else does. And probably very few of these women were surprised by any of the bars he was spitting last night after he glared solemnly at Debra Lee and her introduction like, as one Twitter use put it, a guest pastor getting introduced at Sunday Service.

It’s appropriate to conjure up images of the church here, given that so many of our civil rights leaders used the pastoral platform to get black people primed for work in social justice. But while the message was just as forceful, impassioned, and spiritually moving as anything in the church, the delivery was like that of a seasoned rapper who might drop a Tidal exclusive next week. It was the Drake album we never got. It was the Warriors’ Larry O’Brien trophy that shattered beneath LeBron James’ wings.

With an already small group of important lightskints, including Drake and Steph Curry (and also arguably Barack Obama, but we know how confused we get about the color wheel and for argument’s sake doesn’t include him), Jesse pushed through like The Block, delivered the championship to his team, and is now the MVP of #teamlightskint.

But more than that, Jesse moved himself from great to greater-er in the eyes of most woke black people, not just the woman ones, and regardless of skin tone, really. And, judging from the captivated faces of those in the crowd, perhaps he enlightened a few non-woke ones who were the subject of his social justice evangelisms.

And the man wasn’t just preaching to the choir. He got on BET’s stage in front of a crowd of celebrities, many of whom with more money and fame than he has, and had the nerve to say:

[We dedicate] 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.

It’s one thing to say this at the Black Student Union house during the Kwanzaa planning meeting. It’s quite another to get on Viacom’s stage and tell them about the very shit they’re guilty of while informing millions of viewers, many of whom are probably not black, that:

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. Ghettoising 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.

It would be ironic to invoke Eminem and “Renegade” here, but Viacom really went and got this man to body them on their own network.

His words are only matched by how active he is in materializing his consciousness. He’s had his boots on the ground in Ferguson and Flint and as a board member of the civil rights group the Advancement Project.  He has facilitated media projects to raise our people’s consciousness and elevate the stories of black people, including his latest film documenting the Black Lives Matter movement and his Question Bridge project focusing on black men. And he manages to do all this with his black ass wife and giving props to black women on a regular. It’s like he was made in the bougie black girl factory that usually only produces unicorns but then one day decided to pop out the collector’s edition man version.

What Jesse showed last night is that he is a once-in-a-generation famous person. His mom and pops were looking at him like they know it. His wife knows it. And now a significantly greater number of people do too.

We are truly grateful that Jesse is out here preaching the good word when so, so few of his peers are doing the same. Hopefully some of them, and the rest of us too, receive the message.

Malaika Jabali

Malaika Jabali is an attorney, writer, and activist with a J.D. and M.S. from Columbia University. When she's not getting a superfluous amount of degrees, she is defending A.I.'s practice rant, knucking if you bucking, and reviewing the meme calendar to ensure its accuracy. You can follow her on the twitter at @MalaikaJabali.

  • grownandsexy2

    “AND because I give absolutely no damns, he’s gone be wrapped up in a fine package that coincidentally aligns with the clusterfuck beauty standards white peepo created and y’all continue to uphold, but nevertheless here this nicca is.”

    And God saw that it was good.

    • TJ

      Amen, amen, aaaamen!!!

    • Io

      Your god is not real. And if he was he is dead.

  • lamissly

    Thank you for the wonderful ode to Jesse Williams, Ms. Jabali! I also love how you highlighted how poetic the speech was…
    Fave line: “It’s like he was made in the bougie black girl factory that usually only produces unicorns but then one day decided to pop out the collector’s edition man version.”

    • Malaika Jabali

      thanks folk

  • Jennifer

    “AND because I give absolutely no damns, he’s gone be wrapped up in a fine package that coincidentally aligns with the clusterfuck beauty standards white peepo created and y’all continue to uphold, but nevertheless here this nicca is.”

    Won’t He do it?!

    • HouseOfBonnets

      All da time chille

  • RewindingtonMaximus
    • Quirlygirly

      You saying this like you old.- you are the kids- LOL

      • RewindingtonMaximus

        lmao I had to try it

      • He TRIIIED IT. lol

  • Mary Burrell

    I hope his career hasn’t been compromised because he spoke truth to power and dared to champion for Black people and the social injustice in this country. Shonda Rimes is his employer now but what about in the future. Will they blackball him? You know you can’t be too down for the cause in the entertainment industry and be Black. Even though he’s biracial I do love him for being brave and speaking out. But I hope he can still have his career and not get punished.

    • Brooklyn_Bruin

      “Even though he’s biracial I do love him for being brave and speaking out”

      *looks at camera*

      • Mary Burrell

        HA?

    • QueenRaven23

      I don’t think so. It’s nothing new for him and I suspect ABC won’t cave because of critics.

      • nah he’s actually spoke about this quite a bit. It has/does but it just doesnt care.

    • His career is pretty much being on Shonda’s show

      • philliesfan79

        Wrong. Please do your research. Copy and paste.

        http://m.imdb.com/name/nm0930898/filmotype/actor?ref_=m_nmfm_1

        • all of those are small roles

          • philliesfan79

            Those “small roles” fostered growth and granted him the knowledge and networking ability necessary to design his own career path which lead him to produce.

          • LMNOP

            Except Grey’s Anatomy. So basically, you were right.

            • Qtlfe

              Sublime.

    • his career was compromised a long time ago, he just doesn’t give AF. he’s talked about this quite a bit actually. He passes up a lot of roles bc of how they would reflect upon BM/POC and just overall not wanting to feed into these stereotypes. Love me some Dr. Avery.

    • Jacqueline

      I hear you, but I think the message he is trying to convey is that there are things in life that are bigger than what we do for a living. He will be just fine.

      “You know you can’t be too down for the cause in the entertainment industry and be Black.”

      Well, I think you can be down for the cause, you just have to want to be. I mean Samuel L. Jackson has been holding us down for almost thirty years and he is very successful. LOL

  • PhlyyPhree

    I’m just proud of the way he CONSISTENTLY uses his platform to speak up for black people.
    I have NEVER seen him say anything other than “I’m Black, I love Black, do better by Black”
    And I appreciate that because there are so many people/celebrities who are on this path to Woken-ness now, but I wonder if it’s because it’s turning out to be profitable for them and how woke they’ll be when the money starts flowing somewhere else.

  • chazb

    There were so many nuggets in that speech, I had to watch it several times to fully digest it. He seems quite sincere in his dedication to educating and helping black people as well as dismantling the system that continues to try and oppress us. Also, its nice to know that there is so much intelligence behind that handsome face! For once a celebrity crush that is more than justified,lol

  • truthseeker2436577@yahoo.com

    It is always great to listen to a speech from a conscious person like Jesse Williams. He is right to say that we don’t want freedom in a delayed fashion. We want freedom now. He not only spoke what more celebrities and non-celebrities ought to say. He also refuted and condemned the common post-racial, anti-black lies that extremists commonly express against black people. He spoke about the right of black people to express ourselves unapologetically in our Blackness. He also gave great credit to the sacrifice, courage, and strength of black women. His points about police brutality, brands, race, and the oppressive system are accurate, eloquently shown, and it should open many folks’ eyes that we are not finished yet. The haters and the trolls do need to sit down, because we, as black people, will talk about our heritage and defend our human rights no matter what. He also has been actively involved in helping people in Flint, Ferguson, and in other places of America.

  • This broth and here did the most Prince-esque stuff last night. I salute you, sir.

    • Janelle Doe

      I thought that too. And he didn’t even have to sing to do it.

  • Val

    The truth is shocking when most of what you get is pure unadulterated bs. So, Jesse’s words are truly a gift in an era when the mainstream media has so many outlets to spread lies, misinformation and stereotypes about us.

    And, this is a good indication that even in the era of media consolidation (thanks for nothing Bill Clinton) those who are brave enough can be honest on the enemy’s own stage and still prosper.

    And the lightskint stuff is funny in context but today it doesn’t seem in context or needed. js.

    • PinkRose

      I agree I’m personally sick of reading the word “lightskint” EVERY time someone lightskint is in the news.

      • I’m over referencing our complexions…period… black is black.. and the msg was black as fukk

    • Malaika Jabali

      “And, this is a good indication that even in the era of media consolidation (thanks for nothing Bill Clinton) those who are brave enough can be honest on the enemy’s own stage and still prosper.”

      yep!

      “And the lightskint stuff is funny in context but today it doesn’t seem in context or needed. js.”

      fair

    • Janelle Doe

      It had me thinking he should be invited to give the next four Black State of the Union addresses

    • Annalise Keating

      “And the lightskint stuff is funny in context but today it doesn’t seem in context or needed. js”
      Love Jesse and his speech was great.
      Is the fact that he is biracial, and that comes with a certain amount of privilege not important?
      Does that privilege insulate him compared to say another black person who is not biracial and that falls in the a different part of our colorism spectrum?

      • Val

        What does his privilege have to do with his speech?

        • Annalise Keating

          I thought his speech was great, brave, and brilliant. He even called out the powers that be in the industry which he works in—-a very brave move.

          Some folks have questioned why more black actors/actresses aren’t doing the same?
          One argument I have heard is that it is relatively easier for him to do this because he is half white. Can he be accused of being racist against whites when he is half white? Is it easier for a white person to call out racism By other whites vs a black person doing this?

          And does his being biracial/his looks confer him with a certain privilege that makes it easier for him to get roles than other black folks in a different part of the color spectrum (even in casting for black movies and TV)? And does this privilege make it easier for him to do this vs someone who has a much harder time getting roles and doesn’t want to make their already very difficult situation more difficult?

          This doesn’t make his speech any less important. Doesn’t make him any less brave or brilliant. And I am not saying he isn’t taking a big risk too. Just asking this question and curious as to what other folks think about this?

          • The_LG

            I get what you’re asking, but at best, his looks/bi-racial background are a distraction and at worst, a red herring that far removes us from the point that he is a member of the Black community that uses his platform to empower and uplift, to the very BEST of his abilities. The “how” and “what if” are irrelevant. He’s doing the work, selflessly, and we are better off for it. He cares deeply and he isn’t worried about how expressing that might reflect back on him. Other black actors/actresses aren’t simply because they do not care enough to do so, or because they believe that their platforms would be better or best served in another capacity. And that’s fine, because what he’s doing is not their calling, it’s his.

          • President Obama ‘s mama was white… it hasn’t stopped either one from being called ni66er by white folks.

            • Annalise Keating

              True. True. There will always be those white folks. Those who called him a Muslim and terrorist and the N word. But do you think there are some white folks, who despite categorizing him black, felt more comfortable voting for him (and less threatened by him than say someone who isn’t biracial) because he is half white? Asking a question, not making a statement.

              • Naw.. because white folks aren’t comfortable actually SEEING the black… That’s why white passing was so dangerous…

                • Annalise Keating

                  So, if all white folks are not comfortable “seeing the black” (correct me if I misinterpreted you) then why do you think they voted for him to be president? Because if a significant number of white folks did not vote yay then he would not be president. Again just asking a question. Not making a statement. And DEFINITELY NOT saying that all white folks who voted for him did so because he is half white.

                  • I worked his campaign and he won because of BLACK VOTERS. The highest turnout in history of black voters… They didn’t stand a chance.

          • Honestly Mama G

            It does insulate him and he’s talked about that. He’s talked about how he uses that to inform his work, how he uses the access he has and the privilege he has. He recognizes it, I don’t see why we can’t.

      • Black ppl don’t have privilege period…WITH PRIVILEGE COMES POWER…. Not even lightskinned folks.. this advantage gives a little leeway to a half a$$ better life.. that ALL BLACK FOLKS are striving for… and if darker skinned folks had access to this “advantage” … they’d do the same.

        He’s not even capable of white passing… Black folks WANT to remain divided.. Dayum.

        • Annalise Keating

          I respectfully disagree with you on this. Despite the problems we faces for being black in America, Black folks can have some privilege. Even dark skinned folks. Privilege is not restricted to race. It can include class, and other things. Shoot, there is even American passport privilege… Race and privilege are not mutually exclusive.

          I do agree 100% that we should not be divided.

        • Jetblakc

          Virtually everyone has some privilege. Privilege is relative and there’s always someone that has it worse.

          • Privilege involves a ruling class and power in academia… advantage is what you’re talking about.

      • CheGueverraWitBlingOn

        He’s recognized this privilege himself. See his own comment on why he features are more acceptable withing the context of eurocentric ideas of beauty.

        • Annalise Keating

          Good to know. Thanks for pointing this out to me.

      • Mochasister

        I wonder the same thing. Do people listen to him more because he is biracial?

        • Annalise Keating

          I don’t know. I am wondering about it myself. That’s why I put the question out here to see people’s thoughts. Viola Davis speech at the Emmys wasn’t as long and didn’t cover a range of topics like he did but it was pretty powerful and called out Hollywood on discrimation on one of whitest award show on tv. But it didn’t get as much buzz as his did. some white folks felt she was exaggerating and playing the race card. She is a bigger actresses than Jesse Williams.
          https://youtu.be/OSpQfvd_zkE
          One of my black colleagues who is the most unwoke ( I am making up words now ??) person on the planet. She is One of those “all lives matter” folks even posted Jesse’s speech on her timeline talking about how she was inspired and how folks need to get woke.
          Just wondering…. Not sure….

          • MamaChitChatChitterling

            I agree with you. I also think that Viola’s wonderful speech was a little more lyrical and abstract, and negroes be playing themselves sometimes, so maybe they responded more to Jesse is because it was more direct? Also, totally different audience between the black folks who will sit through the Emmy Awards and those who will also sit through the BET Awards. Some overlap, but distinctly different audiences–and of those audiences, who is going to social media to celebrate more?

            • Annalise Keating

              True. True. I didn’t think of this. You are so right.

    • Stefanie Kelly

      thank. you.

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