When describing his character on Grey’s Anatomy, actor Jesse Williams summed it up with, “He is very confident and likes to say what is on his mind.” Certainly his character, Jackson Avery, had no choice but to exhuberate his confidence; he joined the already-cohesive medical staff late in season six. Interestingly, some may say Williams is similar in his real life, off the set. Compared to Harry Belafonte for his outspokenness and candidness about civil rights issues, Jesse Williams is undoubtedly one of today’s notable civil rights activists. He is the youngest member of the board of directors at The Advancement Project, a civil rights advocacy group.
Jesse is also the executive producer of Question Bridge: Black Males, a multifaceted media project and website focused on the black male identity and the diversity within the demographic. He has written race-related articles for news stations such as CNN and has been a guest on newsroom talk shows like on Wolf Blitzer’s The Situation Room. But it seems like his voice reaches the most people through social media. For those who knew Jesse Williams before the half black and half white actor rose to fame, his active part in activism comes as no surprise.
Williams received two Bachelor’s Degrees from Temple University: one for African American Studies and one for Film & Media Arts. It’s apparent that both degrees helped shape Williams into the man he is today. After graduating, he taught high school African Studies, African American Studies, and English. In a 2013 interview with BET regarding his part in a movie about civil rights, Williams admitted, “I think one of the most fascinating things that I took in was, as somebody who studied the civil rights movement a significant amount in their upbringing, and taught it in high school, I was pretty familiar with the chunky material. But in my study of Reverend James Lawson, who I play, and spent time with….Oftentimes people trivialize that there was a self-defense movement, there was a Malcolm X perspective, there was a Black Panther perspective versus a non-violent Southern perspective. And it’s more complex than that of course, and I think it was interesting about Reverend Lawson’s perspective and his implementations of Ghandi’s practices from his experiences in India, which was the long term strategy of non-violence, of love force or what they called Satyagraha.”
After six years of teaching, Williams, who had been studying acting all the while, moved onto his acting career. His first television role was for an episode of Law and Order in 2006. He appeared in a few other shows before…