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On June 26, 2016, Jesse Williams took home the BET Award for humanitarian of the year. It was well-deserved.

Photo by Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images.


Over the past few years, the "Grey's Anatomy" actor has gained a ton of acclaim for his work as a civil rights activist. He's become well-known for speaking out online with incredibly thoughtful and incisive arguments against police brutality.

He's also done excellent work with the Advancement Project, an organization designed to "strengthen social movements and achieve high impact policy change."

Williams wasn't in the celebrating mood at the BET Awards, though. Instead, he used the platform to get a few things about race in America off his chest.

After quickly thanking his parents and his wife, he gave a shoutout to the people he called "the real organizers": activists, civil rights attorneys, teachers, parents, and everyone around the country fighting for equal rights.

All GIFs via BET.

Then he got down to business. Every word of his acceptance speech was brilliant, but three points stood out:

1. He wanted to remind everyone of how much work there is left to do around racial justice.

He invoked memories of recent victims of police brutality Rekia Boyd, Sandra Bland, Eric Garner, and Darrien Hunt:

"What we've been doing is looking at the data and we know that police somehow manage to de-escalate and disarm and not kill white people every day. So what's going to happen is we are going to have equal rights and justice in our own country, or we will restructure their function and ours."

"Yesterday would have been young Tamir Rice's 14th birthday," he added. "So I don't want to hear any more about how far we've come."

2. He had some choice words for folks who criticize the Black Lives Matter movement.

A lot of folks want to chime in about when and how African-Americans should go about seeking justice and equality. But Williams says not everyone should get a say, and he's absolutely right.

"Let's get a couple of things straight. 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 of our resistance, you better have an established record of critique of our oppression."

"If you have no interest in equal rights for black people, then do not make suggestions for those that do," he said.

3. He brought the crowd to its feet with a powerful call to action, asking everyone in the room to use their wealth and fame for something truly worthwhile.

Williams got real (and poetic) when he asked his celebrity peers to think about their own role in the equal rights movement.

"All of us in here getting money? That alone isn't going to stop this. Dedicating our lives to getting money, just to give it right back for someone's brand on our bodies, when we spent centuries praying with brands on our bodies, and now we pray to get paid for brands on our bodies?"

"We're done watching and waiting while this machine called whiteness uses and abuses us, burying black people out of sight and out of mind."

Williams' speech struck a nerve with people from all walks of life.



If you haven't yet, watch Williams' speech here in its entirety. It's absolutely worth your time.

By the end, it's crystal-clear why BET recognized him as such an important part of the equal rights movement. And his work is really just beginning.

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