Jesse Williams


Actor and activist Jesse Williams didn't hold back when accepting the Humanitarian Award at the 2016 BET Awards Sunday evening.

Before taking to the stage to deliver a passionate speech, the Grey's Anatomy star received a video tribute as well as several kind words from BET Chairwoman and CEO Debra Lee.

"Tonight's honorary has been a tireless champion of change, and a voice for the voiceless," she shared with the crowd. "Jesse Williams is the essence of a modern civil rights legend in the making. And a true pioneer of our new generation of leaders."

Without further ado, Williams stepped on stage where he thanked his wife and his parents for all their love. He also gave credit to the unsung heroes who work day after day to make a difference.

"Now, this award, this is not for me, this is for the real organizers all over the country, activist civil rights attorneys, the parents, the teachers, the students who are realizing that a system built to divide and impoverish and destroy us cannot stand if we do. All right?" he explained. "It's kind of basic mathematics, the more we learn about who we are and how we got here, the more we will mobilize."

Williams continued, "Now, this is also in particular for the black women who have spent their lifetime dedicated to nurturing everyone before themselves, we can and will do better for you."

The 34-year-old Grey's Anatomy actor has starred in a number of films, but it's his work off-camera that's being honored today. Williams' activism and involvement in the Black Lives Matter movement is what set him apart as a candidate for the Humanitarian Award.

And he put his words into action. In October 2014, Williams stood with thousands of others in Ferguson, Missouri to protest the shooting of unarmed teen Michael Brown and ensure he did not pass away in vain.

Williams was also an executive producer and actor in Stay Woke, a 2014 a documentary chronicling the birth and growth of the Black Lives Matter movement that premiered last May on BET.

"[Williams] used every outlet at his disposal to make sure that the message behind the Black Lives Matter movement was heard," the statement continued. 

He has written articles for The Huffington Post and CNN, in which he expresses his frustration with the current system and asks for reform. He also met with President Barack Obama earlier this year to discuss his humanitarian work and help the President with an initiative aimed at helping young African-American men achieve professional success.

Jesse Williams, 2016 BET Awards, Winner of BET Humanitarian Award

Kevin Winter/BET/Getty Images for BET

Williams is currently the youngest member of the board of directors at The Advancement Project, a civil rights think tank and advocacy group.

He is also the executive producer of Question Bridge: Black Males, a media art project that aimed to facilitate a dialogue about black male identity today.

"Williams uses his celebrity platform to shine a light on the injustices of our society and became an outspoken advocate of the Black Lives Matter movement," BET said.

And we couldn't have said it better ourselves. Great work, Williams. Continue your humanitarian efforts and keep reaching for the stars.

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