8 Things You Can Do To Bring More Than Just Cheers to Jesse Williams' BET Speech

Life & Travel

“Just because we’re magic, doesn't mean we’re not real.” – Jesse Williams

As a black girl proudly repping #blackgirlmagic, that line from Jesse Williams’ now infamous BET Awards speech is the one that resonated with me most. And while everyone on social media echoed their hype on social media, one friend in particular stood out on my FB timeline, verbalizing a yawn and asking folks to have several seats.

Yes, she thinks he's fine, intelligent, and is about that life, but we (those of us standing to cheer him on) are doing just that – clapping from the sidelines, watching him run circles around the oppressor, and throwing three-pointers from the bleachers. Most of us are guilty of jumping out of our seats, tweeting the best lines from his speech, creating gifs so we'll never forget--but then, what?

Well, we go home as if that was all his passion for reform and a revolution was intended to do.

So what are we really doing about it? Many of us are guilty of perpetuating all of the hype and not showing enough action. I decided to ask a few good friends and family what we can do to effectively make an impactful change. What can we do to make this amazing, timely, and powerful speech given by Jesse Williams, one that is not said in vain?

Related: How Jesse Williams Became The Voice of This Generation 

Below are 8 ways we can support Jesse Williams through action and further uplift the black community:

Circulate the black dollar.

“If you don’t already know, the dollar in our community is not circulated even once. Let’s say you patron a black owned brick and mortar business, more than likely the dollar you spend will go towards paying the rent for that property which is probably owned by someone outside of our community. Therefore the dollar doesn’t really come back around, it goes out. Support more black owned businesses. We have more to choose from today, and many can be found online.”

Spend less. Invest more.   

“When Jesse Williams mentioned how much money ‘we’ spend on name brand items to look and feel good, statistically speaking, he is right. Black people and minorities need to spend less on material items that hold no value other than to brand ourselves to prove our worth. We need to invest in areas that make a difference. More of us need to become property owners/land owners and investors in tech. When we get to the point where our voice is heard economically, the more control we will have on how we are treated.”

Mentor young people in your community.

“When is the last time you had an actual conversation with a teenager? Kids today are dealing with social pressures that far surpass what we had to deal with at the same age. They live their lives online, but are seeing young black girls and boys being killed in real time. After spending so much time to ‘make it out,’ we need to put as much effort into bridging this gap. Find a church, alumni association, after school program, and/or sorority/fraternity chapter, they all need and will welcome the help. The torch has been passed to Jesse. Take the time to nurture the next young man or woman who can one day take the torch from him.”

Spread knowledge of our history before slavery.

“In Jesse Williams' speech he stated, ‘The more we learn about who we are and how we got here, the more we will mobilize.’ The African American community won't fight if they don't know why they're fighting. We must spread knowledge so African Americans will understand the rich culture we aim to return to and vehemently reject oppression.”

[Tweet "We must spread knowledge so African Americans will understand the rich culture we aim to return to and vehemently reject oppression. - @chimeedwards"]

Get educated.

“Understanding where we have been is not enough if we still do not understand where we are today and the lack of differences in between. We still fight against the same racism and prejudices daily that our great-grandparents and ancestors may have fought and died for. Education and knowledge have always been the keys to opening new doors for our gender, our race, and future generations to come. ‘Staying woke’ means understanding that we face the same threats today as our culture did decades ago. We need to continue to fight back, fight loud, and continue to make our voices heard by speaking up for equality across the board, across stateliness, across social-economic borders, and across generational boundaries. We’ve got to keep our eyes open to the new face of discrimination and segregation standing right in front of us, and use our voices to be the roar of change necessary to make a difference in what tomorrow can become.”

[Tweet "Staying woke means understanding that we face the same threats today as our culture did decades ago."]

Learn and elevate. 

“History is crafted by those who are in power to tell its story.  The triumphs of our history have been buried, our successes stolen, and justice thwarted.  However, the perils of history aren’t new.  Stories of a 1920s Black Wall Street – the wealthiest black community (oddly enough in Tulsa, Oklahoma) – represents our wealth creation and community building success in a time where living wasn’t easy for black people. Toussaint L'Overture, a genius strategist of both politics and military tactics, united people and overcame his enemies.  Nat Turner, Fredrick Douglas, Hannibal Baraca and so many more were able to succeed in a day deadlier for blacks than it is today. They all understood history, the need for unification, and education.  They all learned to escape ‘the system.’  History repeats itself in different forms.  We can repeat the same stories or learn from them and elevate ourselves.  Learn the struggle and the triumphs and we too can be free.”


“It's easy to be discouraged when it seems every door leads to disappointment.  The sad truth for many in our community is that the belief in our ability to thrive and overcome has been survived by hopelessness and dangerous divisiveness.  The psychology of poverty that has been etched into our minds and stitched into our fabric through a multitude of generations of inequality and inequity is alive and well. It continues to play a special role in how we collectively see ourselves, our fates. We need to retrain our minds by changing the messages in our heads and surrounding ourselves with positive people. We need to make it a practice to motivate and support one another, whether by cheering on academic achievements, mentoring/coaching, or saving/investing for the next generation. We need to again believe that our destiny is our own, and that it is long from being set in stone.”


“Let us choose to consistently engage in the practice of UPLIFTING a different member of our community. We can all participate in the weekly social exercise of publicly promoting and supporting noteworthy actions or achievements of individuals or groups who are advancing our narrative as a people. Understanding the power of momentum within a family or network and choosing to consistently lift our counterparts UP instead of breaking them down can and will help change our world for the better and for the good that eagerly awaits the entire human race beyond our current comfort zones.”

[Tweet "Understanding the power of momentum within a family or network will help change our world for the better."]

I encourage everyone to tag someone to add a suggestion to this list and then I suggest we do it. No, really. We've put the word out there, we've made it plain and written it down, but now it's time for real action. Let's start today. Even if we choose one thing on this list, do it for a year and let's continue to make our magic real!

What are some ways we can uplift our black brothers and sisters and our community as a whole? Add your suggestions to the list below.

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