Having won the humanitarian award, Jesse Williams’ delivered a beautiful, articulate and poignant speech at the 2016 BET awards. It was perfectly executed. He didn’t say anything that hasn’t been said before, or address issues that haven’t been in conversation for a long time. What he did do was give everyone listening a piece of verbal inspiration.
Imagine if Jesse Williams’ speech was taken and used as the basis for the script of a musical. What could some of the music be…
“The more we learn about who we are and how we got here, the more we will mobilise.”
The fiery and galvanising intro to Dead Prez’ Let’s Get Free uses the hunting wolf as a metaphor for the black community. The wolf signifies the oppressed who have a history of being demonised for simply trying to survive.
“For the black women in particular who have spent their lifetimes dedicated to nurturing everyone before themselves, we can and will do better for you.”
Taken from his Chocolate Factory album, R. Kelly sings about the substantial heart of the woman. “There are so many answers to the question what y’all do for us” confesses the man who acknowledges that there is much room for him to be a better man.
“We will have equal rights in our country, or we will re-structure their function and ours.”
When he says “I dey talk of black power, I say
I say water no get enemy”; Fela Kuti compares black power to the might and necessity of water in human life. He implies that it would be unwise to go against the power of water because it can and it will restructure the operating systems of the world.
“All of us in here getting money, that alone isn’t going to stop this. Now, dedicating our lives to get money, 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.”
Money isn’t the solution. Materialism and the pursuit of money alone is not the road to freedom. Why? Well, the question is what happens when it all falls down.
“The burden of the brutalized is not to comfort the bystander.”
‘Sorry’ by Beyoncé is the unapologetic anthem of a woman scorned. A woman who refuses to apologise for the aftermath of her mistreatment, it is not her burden to carry.
“If you have a critique for our resistance then you better have an established record of your critique of our oppression. If you have no interest, in equal rights for black people then do not make suggestions to those who do. Sit down.”
Whilst those who have no interest in equal rights for black people take their seats, Bob Marley sings that those who do must “get up, stand up, stand up for [their] rights”.
“Extracting our culture, our dollars, our entertainment like oil. Ghettoizing and demeaning our creations and gentrifying our genius and then trying us on like costumes before discarding our bodies like rinds of strange fruit”
“The thing is, just because we’re magic, doesn’t mean we’re not real.”
Sampled by Kendrick Lamar on his To Pimp A Butterfly album is Boris Gardener’s ‘Every N*gger Is A Star’. It reminds the black individual of their magic, especially in the face of marginalisation.
By Charisse Chikwiri