During the 2016 BET Awards, actor Jesse Williams was presented a Humanitarian Award for his activism and vigilance in advocating for political and social change. His stirring and poignant acceptance speech has been making headlines ever since. In it, Williams articulated our pain, contextualized our struggle, confronted our critics and eloquently placed the world on notice that justice for all is no longer optional.

Prior to this poetic call to action, Williams’ has demonstrated a life-long dedication to the cause of social justice. The Temple University graduate of African American Studies spent six years teaching in the Philadelphia public school system. As an actor and public figure, Williams uses his platforms to advocate for social equality. He currently serves as a member of the board of directors for the Advancement Project (nonprofit organization) working with civil rights attorneys dedicated to issues of racial justice. He physically positions himself on the front lines of the Black Lives Matter movement from Ferguson to Flint.

Let it be understood that Williams is not new to this, he’s 100 percent true to this and he’s got the receipts to prove it. Here are 19 times Jesse Williams has been the voice of our generation:

1. In October of 2014, Williams joined demonstrators in Ferguson to protest the killing of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown by a Ferguson police officer. While there, he casually dropped knowledge on race and double standards in America.

2. When his actions spoke louder than words.

this is a two way street. Ferguson, MO Oct 11, 2014

A photo posted by Jesse Williams (@ijessewilliams) on

3. When he got real on CNN about the media’s deliberate criminalization of black men.

4. When he insisted on humanizing the headlines behind the 2015 Chapel Hill shooting that left a family dead in their own home.

5. When he and Talib Kweli reported what was really going down in the streets of Ferguson.

6. When he took to Twitter to call out double standards in media reporting of the Baltimore Uprising following the death of Freddie Gray.

7. When, during this press junket for The Butler, he caped for Trayvon Martin and offered commentary on the state of social equality.

8. When he lent his star power to advocate for the reduction of drug and petty theft sentences that unfairly target black and brown people. #Prop47

9. When he clapped back at ignorance on behalf of Michael B. Jordan and Ryan Coogler.

10. When he flexed hashtags to help Melissa Harris-Perry spread this word.

11. When he showed up for Flint.

It goes down. #JusticeForFlint Revolt.tv NOW. Text JUSTICE to 83224 !!

A photo posted by Jesse Williams (@ijessewilliams) on

12. When he paid a visit to HLN to explain why everyone (not just black people) should be outraged over the shooting death of a black teenager over loud music.

13. When he knew Bree Newsome had set it off.

It’s tiiiiiiime.

A photo posted by Jesse Williams (@ijessewilliams) on

I’m always trying to find the next comedian that just gives me something a little funny to combine with all of the depressing news that I’m processing. – Jesse Williams


14. Proving that #BlackJoy is a revolutionary act, Williams is down for the occasional roast on behalf of the culture. Like that one time when he just couldn’t find the chill in Rachel Dolezal.

“I’m lookin’ for chill. Y’all got any?” “…Nope.”

A photo posted by Jesse Williams (@ijessewilliams) on

15. When he joined in our collective side-eye of Don Lemon. 

16. When he shared woke holiday gift suggestions for the kids.

A merry resistance to all and to all a good fight. #AisForActivist

A photo posted by Jesse Williams (@ijessewilliams) on

17. When he executive produced and appeared in the BET Documentary, Stay Woke: The Black Lives Matter Movement.

18. When he showed love for black artivism at Goodman Gallery in Cape Town.

#RaiseUp #Art in #Action w/ @hankwillisthomas y @DCChambersii #ArtBasel @Goodman_Gallery

A photo posted by Jesse Williams (@ijessewilliams) on

19.When he executive produced this multifaceted media project focused on the black male identity.

Jesse Williams is about far more than compelling speeches and media sound bites. He dedicated his art, his life and his voice to the cause of social justice long before he had the spotlight.


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