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An ode to Jesse Williams and why activism is not dead

Jesse Williams!!! My goodness I am trying to pin point the last time I have felt so empowered  by a speech- simply by the choice of words and the way they are strung together and the cadence in someone’s voice.

The last time I can think of being so enthralled by a speech was probably Barack Obama’s ‘Yes We Can’ speech. Will.i.am’s song version of it for the campaign was saved on my phone and listened to MULTIPLE times. And of course Martin Luther King’s  ‘I have a dream’ speech is my MANTRA, I have a poster and everything.

The idea that activism is dead, the idea that the voices of activists are just white noise, that the sound of their feet marching is falling on deaf ears- has been shaken up by this speech. This speech is historic, it’ll be sampled in songs and used as a reference point in the future and it has empowered people across the world.

The poetic delivery talking about

All of us in here getting money? That alone isn’t gonna stop this.Dedicating our lives — dedicating our lives to getting 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.

reminds me of one of my favourite poems Bought and Sold by Benjamin Zephaniah where he says

‘Take your prize, now write more,

Faster,

F*** the truth,

Now you’re an actor do not fault your benefactor’

Both Williams and Zephaniah explore the whole idea of letting the white supremacist, capitalist, patriarchy essentially rob us as black people by dictating what we should care about and pushing us farther and farther away from sharing, believing and walking in our truths. The fundamental problem that we are still slaves but in different chains- that’s what Williams (and many before him) have spoken and acted out against.

Williams sees himself as an activist first and that’s something that speaks to me so deeply. Being so convicted to make a change and believing that to be such a core part of who you are and how you live- is something that I hope to do.

He was a teacher before he found fame and now he has educated a nation and beyond and I am so happy. SO HAPPY. As a young Black Brit seeing the hatred  and intolerance that has been spewed as a result of the EU Referendum towards People of Colour and hearing messages from prominent people that are in no way a comfort to POC this nugget from Williams runs deep ‘If you have no interest in equal rights for black people (for POC/BAMEs), then do not make a suggestion for those who do. Sit down’.

 

http://www.billboard.com/articles/news/7416612/jesse-williams-bet-awards-2016-speech-video?utm_content=bufferba6b9&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/music/la-et-st-jesse-williams-bet-annotated-20160627-snap-htmlstory.html

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