The modern day “I have a Dream” speech? Here is why #JesseWilliams Speech Meant So Much to black people.
Last night at the BET Awards, actor/activist Jesse Williams delivered a speech that spoke to the “souls of black folk” in such a way that added fuel to the fire that already burns in so many of our hearts. In so many of our spirits. In so many of our wounds. His words, delivered after receiving the 2016 Humanitarian Award, embodies the heart and driving force behind the #BlackLivesMatter Movement. “Just because we’re magic doesn’t mean we’re not real.”
The magic Williams refers to is our innate ability to rise above our oppression. Our grief. Our suffering. To demand our right to exist in a world that demands otherwise. To carve out our own sacred space when the claustrophobia of white supremacy tries to suffocate us. The magic of our ancestors who turned scraps into meals. Who turned cries into song. Who turned pain into dance. The magic of our grandparents who used Renaissance as resistance. The magic of our parents and of ourselves, who fight policy with prose. Who use lyrics to leverage change. Who fight hypocrisy with hip hop. And it don’t stop.
The magic he refers to is our innate ability to liberate ourselves in the midst of our chains.
And Eric Garner.
And Sandra Bland.
And Darrien Hunt.
And Tamir Rice.
And Freddie Gray.
And Samuel Dubose.
And Trayvon Martin.
And Tanisha Anderson.
And Yvette Smith.
And Oscar Grant.
So many more whom we must remember. Whose names must sit on our tongue. Bittersweet. Whose names taste like cough drops. Whose names awaken the rage in our throats. Whose names we want to spit out and cry out. Whose names urge us to protest. Whose names urge us to resist. Whose names urge us to remember… that it is not over. Never was.
“So what’s going to happen is we’re going to have equal rights and justice in our own country or we will restructure their function in ours.”
Williams shed light on capitalism and its firm grasp on the black community. How we dedicate ourselves to getting money only to put it back into the hands of the ones that continue to oppress us. How we brand ourselves with brands, much like the brands of our ancestry, only this time it is voluntary. He spoke about the black body. How, time and time again, it is tried on and disposed of by the dominant culture.
“Burying black people out of sight and out of mind, while extracting our culture, our dollars, our entertainment like oil-black gold. Ghettoizing and demeaning our creations and then stealing them. Gentrifying our genius and then trying us on like costumes before discarding our bodies of strange fruit.”
Dear black people,
In times of turmoil. In times of turbulence. In times of unrest. May the blood in our veins and the power of our fist remind us that it is not yet time to rest. May we brand ourselves, not with name brands, but with names. The names of those who continue to fight tirelessly. The names of those who refuse to sit still. The names of those who refuse to be silent in remembrance of those who have been silenced. May we remember our magic. May we remember ourselves: who we are and who we were. Most importantly, however, may we remember who we need to be for the progress of those who will come after us.
By Aila Castane
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