Estimated reading time: 17 minute(s)
By Tony Muhammad
The unofficial yet official theme of the 2016 Black Entertainment Network (BET) Awards late last month in Los Angeles, California was FREEDOM. This was determined not by any white corporate entity such as Viacom (the owner of the network), but by artists themselves on their own terms.
The most noted and profound statement at the award show was made by actor, film maker, activist and BET Humanitarian Award winner Jesse Williams, who earned his award for documenting and participating in the Black Lives Matter Movement. In his acceptance speech he spoke on our perpetual and horrific condition from slavery times to present times as Black, as well as (I can safely argue) Indigenous, “Latino” and other non-white people in this unjust land of bondage called America, a speech that touched the lives of millions who not only were able to relate to his words in thought, but painfully and consistently experience the reality he described every day of their lives. His words were also subjected to harsh criticism and scorn not only by many whites who refuse to confront the dreadful atmosphere that racism, largely in the form of police brutality and police killings in Black communities, continues to produce in this country, but also by many Blacks who argued that he was somehow “NOT BLACK ENOUGH” to make such strong arguments because of his “mixed” background (his mother being white and his father Black). Some Blacks in the “conscious” community even made ridiculous “conspiracy theory” type arguments claiming that Jesse Williams was told specifically by the upper echelon “illuminati” forces in the entertainment industry to say what he said in order to fool the Black viewing audience into believing that BET actually has the vested interest of the Black community. This myth was quickly debunked when videos of the speech “mysteriously” disappeared from social media time lines the next day and then later reappeared more than likely out of the realization that the powers that attempted to censor William’s message were actually making themselves look worse by doing so. It was obvious that William’s speech was obviously “TOO BLACK” for BET to outright accept. The message was also TOO REAL for many so-called activists, whose activity is mainly concentrated on posting memes on social media rather doing real activist work in their communities. The fullness of this part of his message became vividly real one week later with not just the post-Independence Day police unjust shootings of Black men such as Alton Sterling (in Baton Rouge, Louisiana), Philando Castile (in St. Paul, Minnesota) and Alva Braziel (in Houston, Texas) but also the police shootings of young “Latinos” such as Pedro Erick Villanueva (in Los Angeles, California), Anthony Nunez (in San Jose, California), Vinson Ramos (in Fresno, California), Melissa Ventura (in Yuma, Arizona) and Raul Saavedra-Vargas (in Reno, Nevada) along with the lynching (police-ruled suicide) of a Black man in Atlanta, Georgia and nation-wide protests that followed.
In addition, not only was Jesse Williams telling whites in general to “stand down” from criticizing a condition and a struggle that they refuse to admit responsibility over; not only was he challenging Blacks in general to not be “bystanders” and simply watch as their people get brutalized and killed; he was also very specific in his aim in terms of language. In short words he was challenging Black entertainers, Black artists, many who have their roots in Hip Hop culture, which is in its origins about challenging the status quo, to not allow themselves to become exploited any longer, change their focus and realize that the mere pursuit of money, name branding and physical branding will not change our collective condition as 21st Century slaves. A total change needs to take place on our terms, defined by us, in the form of a working towards a “hereafter” while we physically live here on planet earth, not waiting to see heaven after we die. Williams referred to this work as a “hustle,” as he inferred it has not started yet, but rather has to be ignited.
He ended his speech by saying “We’ve been floating this country on credit for centuries, yo, 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 then 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 we’re not real.”
What did Jesse Williams mean by “magic?” Could it be referring to a shared secret religious belief that many in the entertainment industry subscribe to? As noted in the final chapter in the recently released book Protect Ya Neck: A Music Industry Survival Guide by Christian Farrad, a very popular underground religion practiced among many in the entertainment industry is Thelema, founded by occultist leader Aleister Crowley. The name of the organization is the Ordo Templi Orientis (O.T.O.). It is what many, especially the youth, have been popularly been referring to in recent years as the “illuminati” in the entertainment industry because of the high level of secrecy in its practice. Central to its teachings is the belief in the use of magic, or rather “magick” which is defined by Crowley as “the science and art of causing change to occur in conformity with will.” Followers of this religion believe that human beings have entered the “Eon of Horus.” Horus is the Christ figure in the Ancient Egyptian (or Kemetic) theology. In Thelema, it is claimed that through the dictation of a “super natural being” while under the influence of drugs during his visitation of Egypt in 1904, Crowley received the “law of Horus” for this new era which teaches the idea “Do as thou wilt shall be the whole of the law.” Initiation into the hierarchy of the organization is done so through both perverted heterosexual and homosexual rituals which are meant to “satisfy the will.” These teachings promote a high level of freedom which attracts many in the entertainment industry because artists, as creative as they are, are by and large very free spirited.