“Grey’s Anatomy” actor Jesse Williams, who earned the humanitarian award for his efforts as an activist, gave a fiery, nearly six-minute speech that brought the audience to its feet and earned a rousing applause.
“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 like oil, black gold, ghettoizing and demeaning our creations then stealing them; gentrifying our genius and trying us on like costumes before discarding our bodies,” he said onstage.
Williams was introduced by BET CEO Debra Lee, who spoke about gun violence and brought up the recent Orlando shooting at the Pulse nightclub.
“We all need to take stance against gun violence. You can make a difference,” Lee said onstage. “Use your voice and vote.”
When “Empire” star Taraji P. Henson won best actress, she encouraged the audience to vote against presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.
“I’m really not political but it’s serious out here, and for those who thing that, you know, ‘Oh he’s not going to win’ — think again. So we really need to pull together and turn this country around,” she said.
Co-host Tracee Ellis Ross said she was supporting Hillary Clinton and reminded viewers several times to “get yourself registered!” Clinton has a past with BET: She appeared at BET’s “Black Girls Rock!” event in April and told the audience “my life has been changed by strong black women leaders.”