I missed the BET awards on June 27 so I missed the tribute to Prince along with several other exceptional performances. Last night, my partner and I watched a video of Kendrick Lamar and Beyonce performing “Freedom”. We both were amazed and completely enthralled by their energy, the activism and the enlightenment in the music. I did’t see any other performances or speeches on the night the show aired. I still don’t know who won for “Best Rapper” or “Best R &B” artist. I will eventually get around to getting the scoop on all of this.
Although I didn’t watch the show, I came across the social media feedback on Spike Lee’s outfit. I didn’t provide any commentary on the the purple hat deemed “Willy Wonka” like. I didn’t find any value in doing so (I understand that Lee, a genius in many respects was obviously paying tribute to Prince, plus there’s more to life than ragging someone for their wardrobe) . I also didn’t publicly comment on Kendrick and Beyonce’s performance, although it did make for good conversation in my home.
When I woke up this morning, June 27, my partner told me that there was one speech that everyone was talking about, one recipient that social media and the world couldn’t seem to get enough of. Jesse Williams. Jesse Williams, the actor and activist received the “Bet 2016 Humanitarian Award.”
Williams delivered a speech that resulted in him trending on social media and that was making headlines. His looks and remarks were the center of discussion for many.
My fiancee’ was the first to mention the speech to me. She urged me to watch it. I called my dad on the way to work. My father and mother instilled the importance and value of knowing our history in us throughout our childhood and continue to do so. Books on black history, pictures of Harriet Tubman, discussion about Black Panthers giving out free lunch and knowledge were just some of the ways my parents enlightened us.
When my dad speaks about leaders, he talks about Nat Turner, Malcolm X, figures from Black wall Street, Ali, Martin Luther King. When my mom talks about leaders, she mentions many of the same names, throwing in the success of Oprah Winfrey and President Barack Obama along with others. On Monday morning when I called my dad on the way to work, another name emerged. Jesse Williams. My dad, the same way that my fiancee’ had almost an hour earlier excitedly talked about Williams’ speech.
At this point, the actor who I started following on Twitter because of his activism was becoming a “Stokely Carmichael” like figure in the minds of my loved ones.
Heavily anticipating listening to the knowledge, insight and passion that I was told Williams shared during the speech, I read the transcript from his acceptance speech while I had a brief moment during the workday. Moved and strongly motivated by my family urging me to watch the speech and based on the way people seemed to be moved, I knew I had to watch it. My best friend sent me an e-mail with a link of Williams’s speech. This was one more sign that watching it was a priority.
So I did. I felt the same thing that they felt. I needed to share the speech. We need to listen to Williams’ speech but we need to do more than listen to it. We need to live it. I thank him for being a wise and thought-provoking passionate individual who knows that life and living is about more than what they see us as, it’s about what and who we are: HUMAN.