The 2016 BET Awards took place last night in Los Angeles and the evening featured severalrivetingPrincetributes, an energetic performance from Beyonce and Kendrick Lamar, and -- of course -- dabs from Desiigner.
One of the larger highlights of the Awards, though, came through a powerful speech from actor and activist Jesse Williams. After receiving the BET Humanitarian Award, Williams took five minutes to poetically speak on a range of issues regarding racism, the modern day black struggle, and the realities of being black in 2016.
Williams' speech touched on police brutality:
"What we've been doing is looking at the data, and we know that police somehow manage to de-escalate, disarm and not kill white people every day. So what's gonna happen is we are going to have equal rights and justice in our own country, or we will restructure their function, and ours."
He also discussed the illusion of freedom:
"There has been no war that we have not fought and died on the front lines of. There has been no job we haven't done. There's no tax they haven't levied against us. And we've paid all of them. But freedom is somehow always conditional here. 'You're free,' they keep telling us. 'But she would have been alive if she hadn't acted so — free.'"
Williams then spoke about the realities of the discarding of black bodies:
"We've been floating this country on credit for centuries, yo, and we're done watching and waiting while this invention called whiteness uses and abuses us, burying black people out of sight and out of mind, while extracting our culture, our dollars, our entertainment like oil — black gold. Ghettoizing and demeaning our creations then stealing them, gentrifying our genius and then trying us on like costumes before discarding our bodies like rinds of strange fruit."
His speech culminated with a one-liner:
"Just because we're not magic doesn't mean we're not real."