Jesse Williams’ Acceptance Speech and Lena Baker

jesse-williams-BET-awards-2016-billboard-1548Last night, I caught some of the BET Awards on television.  I don’t care much for commercial television.  During commercials, I tend to walk away from the television, get distracted and do not return to watching the program.  Survivor is the only program that I set time aside to watch when it airs. It’s not on television year round so I’m not tied down to the television for an hour or two every week.

When I turn on the television, it’s mostly to news channels or I channel surf for movies.  Last night, I had a phone call and decided to turn on the television and channel surf when I discovered that the BET Awards were on.

The other week as I channel surfed, I came upon a movie titled Hope & Redemption: The Lena Baker Story.  It’s strange now that I think about it because that night, the same friend called me who called last night.  Maybe he should call me more often in the evenings.

By now, you might be asking what the Lena Baker story has to do with the BET Awards?   BET awarded Jesse Williams the 2016 Humanitarian Award.  His acceptance speech spoke volumes.

jesse-williams-2Jesse Williams is 34-years old.  He is a Grey’s Anatomy star and a Black Lives Matter activist.  In October 2014, Mr. Williams joined protests in Ferguson, Missouri.  He is also an actor and executive producer of Stay Woke, a documentary about the Black Lives Matter movement.  He met with President Obama earlier this year to discuss his humanitarian work.

Here’s a confession.  I’m ashamed to say that had I not watched the BET Awards, I would not know about Jesse Williams.  Little by little, I’m learning more about the Black Lives Matter movement, so I give BET the credit for introducing me to Jesse Williams.

By now, you’re probably saying, “Come on Xena!  Tell us what that has to do with Lena Baker.”

Lena Baker was born in Cuthbert, Georgia in June 1900.   She was Black, born into a family of share croppers.  As a child, she picked cotton and later worked as a maid for White families.

The film version fills-in much of Lena’s childhood and young adult hood which may or may not be true.  For example, the film shows that Lena was an alcoholic. She didn’t like home brew, but did like real whiskey.  It was Lena’s last words documented in history that causes me to believe that she was an alcoholic, she said,“Where I was I could not overcome it.”

Lena_Baker

Lena Baker – mugshot

In 1944, Lena started working as a maid for a White man named Ernest Knight.  He was an alcoholic and a widower. He did not want Lena to leave his house.   He and Lena got drunk together, and he began using her for sex.

When Lena did leave his house, Knight would find her and bring her back to his house.  His son found Lena sleeping in his dad’s bed once, beat her, and had the Sheriff tell Lena that was against the law for colored and whites to mix. He threatened to arrest her for trespassing if she returned. Lena left, but Knight brought her back to his house and locked her inside when he left.

One night, Lena and Knight argued.  A gun was involved and Lena shot and killed Knight. Lena reported the incident and said that she acted in self-defense.

On August 14, 1944, Lena was placed on trial for capital murder. Her court-appointed attorney, W.L. Ferguson, called no witnesses in Lena’s defense.  The jury of her peers consisted of all White men.  Lena’s trial, and the verdict, took less than one-day. Lena was executed by electric chair on March 5, 1945.  Lena didn’t die right away.  It took several shocks and 6 minutes for her to die.

Lena Baker is the only woman who was electrocuted by the State of Georgia.

As the credits rolled at the end of the movie, I thought to myself, “Lena was not executed because she killed a White man.  She was executed because she thought she was free – free to choose to go to her own home, a home where there was no whiskey, and no forced sex. ”

The following day, I was talking with a friend about the movie and my thoughts.  It’s strange, because I suspect some would have doubt of what I thought after seeing that movie and hearing what Jesse Williams said in his acceptance speech.

Of course, in 1944, slavery was unconstitutional, but some states passed laws that kept slavery alive.  The spirit of those laws was intended to circumvent the 13th Amendment.   Jim Crow has been replaced with stand your ground law, conceal carry, police union policies, and a certain attitude that Jesse Williams spoke about in his acceptance speech.  It inspired and gave me energy to write this.  Mr. Williams said;

“But freedom is always conditional here. ‘You’re free!’ they keeping telling us. ‘But she would be alive if she hadn’t acted so… free.’ 

Mr. Williams called out the names of Tamir Rice, Rekia Boyd, Eric Garner, and Sandra Bland.  In the 21st Century, whether by bullet, choke hold, or lynching by garbage bag, they died for believing they were free; doing what free children do — doing what free adults do; talking on the street with friends; driving a car; speaking up for their rights.

 

 

Posted on 06/27/2016, in Black lives matter, civil rights, Potpourri and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 13 Comments.

  1. yahtzeebutterfly

    Thanks for posting the Youtube of Jesse William’s speech, Xena. It is so powerful that I transcribe the main body of his speech:

    This award, this is not for me. This is for the real organizers all over the country, the activists, the civil rights attorneys, the struggling parents, the families, the teachers, the students that are realizing that a system built to divide and impoverish and destroy us cannot stand if we do.

    It’s kind of basic mathematics, if the more we learn about who we are and how we got here, the more we will mobilize.

    Now this is also in particular for the Black women, in particular, who have spent their life times dedicated to nurturing everyone before themselves. We can and will do better for you.

    Now, what we’ve been doing is looking at the data, and we know that police somehow manage to deescalate, disarm, and not kill White people every day. So what’s going to happen is we are going to have equal rights and justice in our own country or we will restructure their function and ours.

    Yesterday, would have been young Tamir Rice’s fourteenth birthday. So I don’t want to hear anymore about how far we’ve come when paid public servants can pull a drive-by on a twelve-year-old playing alone in a park in broad daylight, killing him on television and then going home to make a sandwich.

    Tell Rekia Boyd how it’s so much better to live in 2012 than it is to live in 1612 or 1712. Tell that to Eric Garner; tell that to Sandra Bland; tell that to Dorian Hunt.

    Now the thing is, though, all of us in here getting money? That alone isn’t going to stop this. Alright? Now, dedicating our lives, dedicating our lives to get money just give it right back for 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?!

    There has been no war that we have not fought and died in the front lines of. There has been no job we haven’t done. There’s no tax they haven’t levied against us, and we’ve paid all of them. But freedom is somehow always conditional here. “You’re free” they keep telling us, but she would have been alive if she hadn’t acted so “free.”

    Now, freedom is always coming in the Hereafter. But…You know what, though, the Hereafter is a hustle. We want it now.

    And, let’s get a couple things straight, just a little side note. The burden of the brutalized is not to comfort the bystander. That’s not our job. Stop with all that. If you have a critique for the resistance, for our resistance, then you better have an established record of critique of our oppression. If you have no interest, if you have no interest in equal rights for Black people, then do not make suggestions to those who do. Sit down.

    We’ve been floating this country on credit for centuries, and 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 like rinds of strange fruit.

    The thing is, though, the thing is that just because we’re magic doesn’t mean that we’re not real.

    Thank you.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. yahtzeebutterfly

    Excellent article with on-point insights, Xena.

    You make important points:

    “As the credits rolled at the end of the movie, I thought to myself, “Lena was not executed because she killed a White man.  She was executed because she thought she was free – free to choose to go to her own home, a home where there was no whiskey, and no forced sex…

    “Of course, in 1944, slavery was unconstitutional, but some states passed laws that kept slavery alive.  The spirit of those laws was intended to circumvent the 13th Amendment.   Jim Crow has been replaced with stand your ground law, conceal carry, police union policies, and a certain attitude that Jesse Williams spoke about in his acceptance speech.”

    It seems that barriers to freedom are always being thought up and erected year after year.

    Yesterday, I was reading an article in the October 22-23, 1966 issue of The Southern Courier where the reporter quoted Dr. Martin Luther King’s reference to these barriers:

    “King Speaks to 1,000”

    BIRMINGHAM — “White American never did intend to integrate housing, integrate schools, or be fair with Negroes about jobs,” the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. told a crowd of nearly 1,000 people last Wednesday night in the Municipal Auditorium…

    “White America was willing to make some concessions on public accommodations and voting rights,” Dr. King said, “because it didn’t cost them anything.” But, he said, they still expect a Negro woman applying for a job to type 150 words a minute, have the face of Lena Horne, and the figure of a Marilyn Monroe.

    Dr. King told his mostly Negro audience that there was still “ a gigantic invisible wall, and most of the 22,000,000 black people in this country live behind that wall.”

    The Ku Klux Klan, the John Birch Society, and the white Citizens Council are “obvious culprits” that help keep up that wall, he said. But he added that white moderates, the national administration, and some Negroes help keep it up, too.

    Liked by 2 people

    • yahtzeebutterfly

      The last 2 paragraphs above should have also been in quotes:

      Dr. King told his mostly Negro audience that there was still “ a gigantic invisible wall, and most of the 22,000,000 black people in this country live behind that wall.”

      The Ku Klux Klan, the John Birch Society, and the white Citizens Council are “obvious culprits” that help keep up that wall, he said. But he added that white moderates, the national administration, and some Negroes help keep it up, too.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. chuquestaquenumber1

    I remember the Lena Baker movie. Tichina Arnold was powerful as Lena. It was sad how racists could just enter a black family’s home and grab someone and not meet resistance. Even if the house had 15 people.

    Racists have also begun their vitriol towards Jesse Williams. It doesn’t matter that Jesse has a white mother,he’s now anti white. As well as anti cop just like Beyonce Knowles was after Formation. Jesse Williams because he mentioned police criminality will receive more hatred than white cop killers who ACTUALLY ATTACKED AND KILLED COPS. Williams will also receive more vitriol than convicted rapists who manage to avoid prison(Brock Turner,Marcus Vandenburg and John Enochs).

    Liked by 3 people

    • Chuquest,
      You always hit the proverbial nail on the head.

      “It doesn’t matter that Jesse has a white mother,he’s now anti white”.

      They do the same to President Barack Obama.

      Yes, the bigots are quick to paint anyone as a “black racist” and “cop hater” who supports equality for all, and anyone who points out the double-standards of our society. If they suspect that the individual is White, they call them “White guilt idiots.”

      Remember in late 2014, one of my main harassers started making those false allegations towards me on Twitter. She progressed to accusing me of wanting police officers killed. I think that anyone who has read my postings and comments knows that I’m a Pacifist — I don’t believe in killing human beings, PERIOD.

      So, a few months ago, one of the internet extortionist submitted a comment saying that they had reported me and this blog to the Department of Homeland Security for promoting “that Black Lives Matter domestic terrorism.”

      I’ve started following Jesse Williams on Twitter.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. yahtzeebutterfly

    Liked by 2 people

  5. His speech was epic. Everything he said needed to be said. I especially like this:

    ” If you have a critique for the resistance, for our resistance, then you better have an established record of critique of our oppression. If you have no interest, if you have no interest in equal rights for Black people, then do not make suggestions to those who do. Sit down.”

    It reminds me of ‘those who think it can’t be done need to get out of the way of those who are doing it.”

    Liked by 1 person

  6. yahtzeebutterfly

    “But freedom is always conditional here. ‘You’re free!’ they keeping telling us. ‘But she would be alive if she hadn’t acted so… free.’

    Now, freedom is always coming in the Hereafter. But… We want it now.

    Sadly, these pins are STILL needed today:

    Like

  7. Reblogged this on It Is What It Is and commented:
    Jesse Williams’ Acceptance Speech ……. Amazing!!

    Like

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