Did you see Actor, Jesse Williams' BET Humanitarian Award Acceptance Speech?
Where are "our" leaders?
After Martin. After Malcolm. After Nina. After Nelson. After Mya. After Barack.
Who's going to stand up? Millennials are constantly critiqued. The Black Lives Matter Movement is scrutinized and questioned. The generation before mine has shunned us, but forgot they are they one's who raised us. As a 30-something Black woman on a mission to make a difference, I feel stuck between the past and the present: My elders reign on thrones until death - they don't retire, fail to create successors, and pass torches with flame already snuffed out. My "senior saints" still engage in Respectability Politics and disregard my generation for things as trivial like the way we wear our hair or our style of dress... as if they forgot Martin was killed wearing a suit and a tie.
Let that sink in. Then there are my peers, some of whom are lost... trying to find our way either through education, the "alleged" great equalizer and wading through cliques, Greek affiliations, networking circles, etc. only to feel like we are spinning wheels. Too many are drowning in the pool of propaganda. I talk to people everyday who have not yet come to the conclusion that social media isn't real, jealous of lifestyles that don't exist instead of using it as a tool to transcend beyond the trash of celebrity gossip, airing their dirty laundry, and keeping up with so-called "reality TV". I am one who believes there will not be one solitary voice to rise above the echoes but many voices, calling out atrocities, social injustice, and economic inequality. It will be and is a culmination of collective voices spanning generations. There was a voice during the Super Bowl Half-Time show. There was a voice during the Grammy Awards. There were voices that walked graduation platforms last month. There are voices on Black Twitter, on blogs, on podcasts, on YouTube. There are voices in courtrooms, in class rooms, and in prison cells.
Just like Blacks are NOT the monolithic group experiencing poverty, kill our own kind, abuse the system... The Black Voice raging against the machine is not and will not be monolithic. We Out Here. (improper grammar used for affect)
We are authors, actors, parents who reprimand our children when they do wrong. We are students, teachers, council/borough/school board representatives. We are nonprofit and for profit entrepreneurs. We are volunteers and advocates. And we happen to be between the ages of 18 and 36.
Yesterday, another impassioned voice shared with the masses a definitive message: "We're done.... We're done watching and waiting while this invention called whiteness uses and abuses us." This is a familiar voice. Jesse Williams, Temple University graduate, former teacher, now acclaimed actor (might as well mention heartthrob) ushered in an uninterrupted mic drop at the 2016 BET Awards as he was recognized for his activism and herald as a true Humanitarian. The cable network known as Black Entertainment Television while inundating us with unhealthy representations of the Black experience, has also been honoring Humanitarians since 2002. Each year the BET Humanitarian Award is given to a celebrity philanthropist who donates their time and money to a charitable cause. Along with Jesse Williams are: Tom Joyner, 2015; Myrlie Evers-Williams, 2014; Dwyane Wade, 2013; Al Sharpton, 2012; Steve Harvey, 2011; John Legend, 2010; Alicia Keys and Wyclef Jean, 2009; Quincy Jones, 2008; Don Cheadle, 2007; Harry Belafonte, 2006; Denzel and Pauletta Washington, 2005; Danny Glover, 2004; Earvin "Magic" Johnson, 2003; and Muhammad Ali, 2002.
The Grey's Anatomy actor clearly meets the criteria for such an award. The Advancement Project is a National Civil Rights think tank and advocacy group where Williams is its youngest member. As executive producer of Question Bridge: Black Males, Williams uses multi-media to challenge and address the Black male identity and promote dialog on the topic which includes men from economically diverse backgrounds and experiences. He has written articles for The Huffington Post. He has also been a guest commentator on Wolf Blitzer's The Situation Room which airs on CNN. Williams was one of many who stood with thousands in Ferguson, Missouri after the unarmed shooting of Michael Brown.
If you didn't see Jesse Williams' acceptance speech, I have shared the link below. If you saw it and fail to see the relevance, then you may be tone deaf to the voices calling for the liberty this nation claims marginalized people have, yet don't experience ENOUGH. He powerfully called on us to "...learn about who we are and how we got here...", so we can effectively mobilize. While being honored, he recognized Black women, "who have spent their lifetimes dedicated to nurturing everyone before themselves." Poetically he addressed the fallacy of financial security in light of the price our ancestors have already paid... "To put 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 for our bodies."
With his own voice, he demanded the silence of those who question our resistance but refuse to acknowledge our oppression. Williams closed by pointing his finger in the eye of cultural appropriation, the historical art of stealing Black Genius as if it were Black Gold. And with a "Thank You" and a raised fist, he walked off the stage just after stating the last bar of his oratorical white privilege diss track...
"The thing is, just because we're magic, doesn't mean we're not real."
This ain’t our grandparents’ civil rights movement. We are angry. We have every right to be. We thought we would be further ahead than we are now. Dignity and decorum got us in the front and no longer in the back only to find out that the water taste the same and the ice is just as cold. If you can't distinguish the difference between the demonstrators and the deviants, then you aren't alone. Last I checked these racist policies and the administrators who enforce them don't notice the difference either. Peaceful or riotous, both have the potential to find themselves in a Waller County, Texas jail cell, never to be heard from again. Or in the back of a Baltimore City Police Van, death and absolutely no one is responsible. Or dying of a gun shot wound after being "accidentally" shot in a darken New York city housing project stairwell. Or choked to death after breaking up a fight and telling the arresting officer 11 times, "I Can't Breath".
We All We Got. (again, improper grammar used for affect)
Don' ignore the voices of this generation because they aren't packaged according to your preference, aren't willing to carry your briefcase and bottled water, aren't dancing to your tune. No doubt, Jesse Williams, age 34, fits the mold - married, accomplished and educated, but there are other voices who may not be any of those things but happen to be just as sick and tired of being sick and tired. Williams is one of many. And there are many more to come.
So back to my original question, "Where are our leaders?" You leave me with no choice but to ask you, "How'd you miss the war cry?"