Written by Gregory Meriweather @RadioBlackOn
July 14, 2016
In the midst of a great speech during the BET Awards, our dear brother, Jesse Williams, has Black people all over the country hyped. The crowd at the awards ceremony was standing on their feet as this brother went on telling the world what many national and local leaders have been saying for years, but have not seen the results that they so desire to see.
Yes, I thought the speech was incredible. I also wished it was the last thing said at the awards ceremony, because I watched “us” get right back into reckless mode when the show progressed. I must say I am not a fan of BET. I believe the network has gotten away from being a network that was intended to support Black healing, education, empowerment and development when Robert Johnson created it in 1980, and the network only aired for two hours. By 1985, BET became the first Black-controlled company to be on the New York Stock Exchange. Bob Johnson eventually sold BET to Viacom, and the rest is history.
In spite of the speech being on BET, I must applaud the media for giving the speech life beyond BET. As I listened to the words from Jesse Williams, my energy level rose. As he continued, my emotion became overwhelmed because of all the things we need to work on. He did speak on the oppression of Black people, but he also spoke about our own personal responsibilities.
When Williams said, “Now, this award – this is not for me. This is for the real organizers all over the country – the activists, the civil rights attorneys, the struggling parents, the families, the teachers, the students that are realizing that a system built to divide and impoverish and destroy us cannot stand if we do.” I wanted to shout, because there are so many Black people who don’t believe a “system” exists.
Why is it that we cannot come together, and make the changes that are necessary for our people? Can this speech that was given at the BET Awards be the speech that sparks the new civil rights movement in America?
Black people all over the country have been talking about this amazing moment. There were celebrities and fans alike, standing on their feet. As I looked at the crowd, I thought about all the things that have been said by Dr. Umar Johnson, Dr. Claude Anderson, Minister Louis Farrakhan and a host of others. All that I could think was, “Are they really listening?” I so badly pray that they were, because it would be one of the most hype wastes of time that we have seen in a long time.
If the Black people fail to do something after this speech, it will resemble what true activists face every time they try to make a difference. The mainstream has such a strong pull, that we tend to forget what good is, altogether. How do you think a pastor feels when he has delivered a powerful message where people stand to their feet, but when the call to discipleship takes place, no one takes the message and applies it to real life action? He is somewhat heartbroken because he knows that there is someone in the crowd that needed to move on the message.
We have to get busy. We need to hear the words that were said by this young man, and hold them near and dear to our hearts. I understand that in our history, Black people had to deal with a lot of abuse when we stood up for our rights. I also believe that if we don’t do anything about it, then we will become more abused than ever, and in a more strategic way.
The question that I will continue asking is, “Now that you are standing, what are you going to do?” At the BET awards, there were a lot of people in the crowd, and even more watching on T.V. The people in the crowd looked as if they were in total shock. The people who were at home sent out “Jesse William For President” posts on Facebook. There is a big difference from being an activist and actor. Jesse Williams is both. An activist is real. An actor pretends to be real. When Jesse Williams received his award, he went from actor to activist.
On that night, the same thing happened to you. When you heard the speech, did you become an actor or an activist? Were you pretending to believe what was said or were you just pretending to look the part because so many people said that it was the thing to do? Only time will tell how effective this speech really was. Since you are standing and hyped, please make the decision to be an activist, not an actor.
Greg Meriweather is the host of The Expo Show and the Chief Executive Officer of Black On Black LLC.