One shining Jesse Williams moment in American history

JAMES CLINGMAN | 7/11/2016, 11:28 a.m.
More than a couple of million folks have responded to the words spoken by Jesse Williams, which points out the ...
James Clingman

(George Curry Media) – More than a couple of million folks have responded to the words spoken by Jesse Williams, which points out the fact that many Black people are mesmerized by words that excite us and stimulate our emotions. Rather than initiating practical and appropriate actions as a result of words that make us feel good, we usually end up celebrating, espousing, regurgitating and discussing, ad nauseam, those words instead of implementing strategies that make us “do good.”

The speech by Williams was important and relevant, especially to Black people. I appreciate his words and his willingness to make his statements on such a widely viewed stage. He used his fame and the very popular BET Awards Show to put forth a message that has been spoken and written by others before him, but also one that we need to hear over and over. Seems to me that when someone famous says the same things other non-famous folks have said, it takes hold quicker and our light bulbs come on faster. Questions: “How long will the message last? Will we act upon it?

Williams’ background, political affiliations and motivations notwithstanding, his message was more important than the messenger. But since we are so attuned with what our celebrities say, he had instant credibility with many young and older folks alike. This is not to suggest that we discriminate against a message because of its messenger. A moron can bring a valid message. Suppose Clarence Thomas had said the same thing Williams said. Would we reject that message?

My point is that Black folks should be able to discern a positive message that comes from any messenger, so that we can know “why” the message is being promulgated and be able to respond appropriately to that message. Emotional catch-words and phrases are fleeting and seldom cause any improvement in our well-being. Remember: “I have a dream!” “Down with dope – Up with hope!” “No justice, no peace!” “Yes we can!” and all the other words we have heard and chanted millions of times?

I’d rather we follow words from Richard Allen: “To Seek for Ourselves,” Marcus Garvey: “One God, One Aim, One Destiny!” and Elijah Muhammad: “Do for Self.” I chose to hear some of those words in Williams’ speech, and I give him credit for speaking on the subject. It’s on Williams now to show us what he meant by putting his words into action; it’s up to the rest of us to develop strategies and initiatives that will move our people forward.

Williams spoke on issues that I have written articles on as far back as 1994, more specifically, one titled, “The Young and the Relentless,” in which I described how many young Blacks were becoming entrepreneurs. Rather than falling for the okey-doke of buying and wearing someone else’s brand, they were developing, marketing and selling their own brands. Unfortunately, as the article also cited, many of our young entertainers had succumbed to the lure of “OPS” – other people’s stuff – e.g. Adidas, Nike, Hilfiger, etc. rather than “OPM” – other people’s money.