Jesse Williams Calls for Equality in Emotional BET Awards Speech

Jesse Williams, Beyonce, Kendrick Lamar, and others make social and political statements at BET Awards.

Jesse Williams received a standing ovation at Sunday’s BET Awards following the end of very passionate speech after he received a humanitarian award.

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His speech pushed for equality and discussed the unfair treatment of blacks in society. As he accepted his award, he raised his fist in the air in salute to black culture. 

The actor said: “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... ghetto-lyzing 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 — just because we’re magic doesn’t mean we’re not real."

The Grey’s Anatomy star added: “This is for the real organizers all over the country. The activists, the civil rights attorneys, the struggling parents, the families, the teachers of students that are realizing that a system built to divide and impoverish and destroy us cannot stand if we do.”

Following his speech, Justin Timberlake, who was not at the awards in Los Angeles, was blasted for his tweet.

@iJesseWilliams tho...#Inspired #BET2016

June 27, 2016

Fans slammed the "Cry Me A River" singer with comments like: "Did you like the part when Jesse talked about white people stealing from us? That should resonate with you."

Another person wrote: "Inspired to do what? Continue to emulate black culture through your music while ignoring issues affecting black people?" 

Williams was not the only socially and politically-charged sentiment of the evening.

Co-host Tracee Ellis Ross made a plea for Hillary Clinton.

“I heard that one of the largest most influential demographics is single women in this election. Oh, yeah. So basically, technically, what this means is I will be determining the next president. Welcome to the White House, Hillary Clinton,” she said.

And while she never mentioned him by name, Empire star Taraji P. Henson made a thinly veiled reference to Donald Trump.

“I'm not really political, but it's serious out here. For those who think he isn't going to win, think again. We really have to pull together and turn this country around,” she said.

Beyonce and Kendrick Lamar surprised everyone at the top of the show with the politically and socially charged track “Freedom,” off the singer’s new album, Lemonade.

They began the performance with a clip of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s infamous “I Have a Dream” speech.

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The singer belted out: “Freedom! Freedom! Where are you? Cause I need freedom too!
I break chains all by myself. Won't let my freedom rot in hell.”

The socially conscious rapper from Compton waxed: “Meet me at the finish line, 40 acres gimme mine.”

While emotions ran high through the whole show, there was a tribute to Prince. Singer Jennifer Hudson belted out “Purple Rain” with Stevie Wonder backing her on piano.

Laila Ali was on hand for to pay tribute to her late father – Muhammad Ali.

“My father always said if people love each other as much as they love me, it would be a better world,” she said.

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