February 22, 2017


Future Black History Month: Jesse Williams' Powerful Leadership

Rich Polk/Getty Images
Rich Polk/Getty Images

Fuse is once again celebrating an extended Black History Month by highlighting a variety of rising forces who are creating Future Black History before our very eyes. Today we are honoring Jesse Williams, the Chicago native who has increasingly become a crucial voice in black activism. 

Prior to becoming an inspiring leader, Williams made us swoon with his Dr. Jackson Avery character on ABC's Grey's Anatomy. He's been a major cast member since '09, but has also appeared movies like 2008's The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 (his film debut), 2012's The Cabin in the Woods and 2013's The Butler. But Williams proved to be way more than just an actor with a handsome face when he gradually began to express his opinions on politics and the #BlackLivesMatter movement.

The 35-year-old has a degree in African American Studies and Film and Media Arts, and uses what he's learned at Temple University along with his high school teaching background as a tool to share powerful messages. Over the past few years, Williams has made his voice known through articles for CNN and The Huffington Post while also acting as the youngest member on the The Advancement Project's board of directors, a nonprofit organization that focuses on race issues.

Williams also executive-produced the Stay Woke: The Black Lives Matter Movement documentary, which premiered in May 2016 on BET, and dives into racial injustices. But the actor's most shining mainstream moment occurred at last year's BET Awards, where he received the Humanitarian Award. The star's incredibly motivating speech was the highlight of the night and made its mark as one of the most driving statements in recent award show history.

The way Williams spoke would make his ancestors proud, as he had the charisma and defiance of a 1960s protestor while dedicating the award to "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."

He continued to speak candidly while referencing Tamir Rice, Rekia Boyd, Eric Garner, Sandra Bland and Dorian Hunt—all victims of police brutality:

"And let's get a couple things straight, just a little sidenote—the burden of the brutalized is not to comfort the bystander.That's not our job, alright - stop with all that. If you have a critique for the resistance, for our resistance, then you better have an established record of critique of our oppression. If you have no interest, if you have no interest in equal rights for black people then do not make suggestions to those who do. Sit down. 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. The thing is though...the thing is that just because we're magic doesn't mean we're not real."

Like Williams said in his speech, change cannot only come from just our words or the amount of money we make. We have to find the inner strength and commitment to keep pushing, keep resisting. He is the ideal standard for that. The actor's activism spills into Twitter where he urges followers to partake in the #DeleteUber protest and supporting apps like Scholly that helps students find college scholarships. He even teamed up with Lemonade director Kahlil Joseph to star in a black-anchored film alongside Tracee Ellis Ross for fashion brand KENZO.

This is all just the beginning for Jesse Williams, and his fervent efforts to make a change in this world will no doubt solidify his place in future black history.

We're celebrating Future Black History all month long! Tune in to Fuse and come back to Fuse.tv every day for profiles, videos and more. Find Fuse in your area with our Channel Finder.