Will We Stand With Jesse?

Honoree Jesse Williams accepts the Humanitarian Award onstage during the 2016 BET Awards at the Microsoft Theater on June 26, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. Photo Credit: Kevin Winter/BET/Getty Images for BET)

Honoree Jesse Williams accepts the Humanitarian Award onstage during the 2016 BET Awards at the Microsoft Theater on June 26, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. Photo Credit: Kevin Winter/BET/Getty Images for BET)

Watching the BET has always been difficult for me during my adult life, I never fully understood what the point of the BET awards was. I know some people are going to say to honor black excellences, however I have often felt the BET awards glorified all what is wrong with black society. I know black artists are not recognized in the main stream, the fact that NaS has never won a Grammy still does not sit well with me, or the fact that zero black actors or actresses were even nominated for Academy Award this year definitely does not sit well with me. However I have always seen BET, as programming that was made to help portray the negative stereotypes of black people, to put it simply I felt deep down that BET has taken the easy way out, and has marketed itself the way White America sees black people. I mean BET gave us day time program that consisted of nonstop music videos, with stereotypes of what it means to be a successful black man, or how black women should act. Furthermore if that wasn’t an enough it gave us 106 and Park, and BET After Dark. The BET awards was an extension to everything I felt was wrong with BET, recently in the past few years I felt strongly about this since BET was sold to Viacom a company that historically is run by whites, with a mostly white board of directors. So when people asked me this year, was I watching the BET awards, I probably looked at them with a face somewhere between anger, and flabbergast. To say why are you asking me this dumb question?

“I have always seen BET, as programming that was made to help portray the negative stereotypes of black people, to put it simply I felt deep down that BET has taken the easy way out, and has marketed itself the way White America sees black people.”

 

I had an hour to kill so I decided to tune in, because I knew at some point during the week someone going to say, “Did you see such and such on the BET awards?” It’s funny usually when I tell people I usually watch parts but not the whole thing people often looked mortified like I committed some type of social taboo against black society. So I decided to DVR it that way I could fast forward through most parts, so I wouldn’t have to sit through a million rap performances, and I could just watch the parts of the BET awards I would want to see. I was pleasantly surprised by Beyoncé’s performance starting with the playing of Martin Luther King, I couldn’t help but be interested, I felt her and Kendrick Lamar are just what was needed. It was much needed and spoke to how socially conscious Beyoncé has become in the recent years, after that performance BET went back to the sad tried and true formula, on with the jokes by Tracy Ellis Ross, and Anthony Anderson, and don’t forget the sorry rap performances to promote some more stereotypes, I went from feeling happy to anger in a matter of minutes if not seconds. With tributes to honor Prince in between, BET stuck to the formula. Then Jesse Williams happened, he said everything that needed to be said and then some.

Photo Credit: Matt Sayles/Invision/AP

Photo Credit: Matt Sayles/Invision/AP

He spoke on a number of black issues, from black lives matter, to thanking black women, hell he even named many of the blacks killed at the hands of the police. Furthermore thanking the many community organizers to the count teachers in the black community. However his most important message was to the count celebrities in the crowd, while the message was simple it was much needed call to action. Jesse, called for blacks to stand and to mobilize themselves. The message to celebrities to stop branding themselves just to get paid. The message we have never really been free as black people should ring loudly with all black people. The fact that he called, “invention of whiteness” has been using us (blacks) for decades for their own selfish benefit needed to be said. Jesse Williams summed up black America feeling about America in five minutes, and while I’m happy he said what he said, I can’t not help but wonder if his message reached the masses.

“However his most important message was to the count celebrities in the crowd, while the message was simple it was much needed call to action. Jesse, called for blacks to stand and to mobilize themselves.”

While his speech set social media a blaze, it kind of got lost as the evening went on, people started to react to other speeches and performances. As I came to work today people were no longer talking about Jesse’s speech or even Beyoncé’s performance, but how the Prince tribute could been better, or how Future should have performed a different song. Or even better someone asked, “What was the point of Beyoncé’s performance?” “Why did Jesse Williams speak for so long?” When will we wake up as people is my question? When will we stop being concerned about the Real Housewives, or how many points LeBron had last night? What really matters to us? When will we truly be concerned about our condition? The time for talk is over it time for more action.

While Jesses Williams has been a man of action, standing with those in Ferguson, and other community groups. When will our other stars and so call heroes stand up? When will black America truly say enough is enough? I guess NaS was right, “Athletes today are scared to make Muhammad Ali statements.”

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Rodney Fresh
Rodney Fresh

"Don't count the days, make the days count." --Muhammad Ali

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