Monday Motivation: Jesse Williams’ History of Social Justice

By Malaika Charrington

Some may know Jesse Williams as Dr. Jackson Avery, the character he plays on ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy. But recently others have come to know him as the activist who gave a compelling and motivational speech on race at the 2016 BET Awards after winning their humanitarian award.

Having worked as an actor on Grey’s Anatomy since 2009, Williams has certainly done well for himself financially, but he states that money isn’t all that he wants for himself or the black community. In his BET Award speech Williams said:

“The thing is though, all of us here are getting money, that alone isn’t going to stop this [racial injustice]. Dedicating our lives to getting money just to give it right back to put someone’s brand on our body -- when we spent centuries praying with brands on our bodies, and now we pray to get paid for brands on our bodies?”

Jesse Williams has a record of being very involved in the struggle for consciousness concerning racism. After high school, Williams graduated from Temple University with a double major in African American and film studies. He uses his knowledge of African American studies in a lot of his work including his position as executive producer for a project titled Question Bridge: Black Males. This is a media project which works to “represent and redefine Black male identity in America”. In addition, he has also written several articles for news organizations such as CNN and The Huffington Post, and has been featured on a few news broadcasts.

Both in his time as a high school teacher, and now, Jesse Williams has dedicated much of his time to educating people and spreading awareness surrounding issues regarding racism. He has spent time at quite a few protests for racial equality including the Ferguson protests in 2014, and he also donated money to causes such as the Flint, Michigan’s clean water crisis.

"We often grow up being told that we can do this or that but if you don’t see anybody that looks like you doing it, you don’t believe you can do it. But I had great teachers and I wanted to be a great teacher." -Jesse Williams


Jesse Williams has worked very hard to become a positive role model for young men of color, and his speech at the BET Awards was just the beginning.