Jesse Williams Apologizes For Insensitive Mamie Till Meme
Robyn Twomey / Redux Pictures
When Nike announced it had tapped Colin Kaepernick to be the face of its 30th anniversary “Just Do It” campaign, it rolled out a striking image of the former NFL star with the tagline: “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.” Recently, Grey’s Anatomy star Jesse Williams used Nike’s image as inspiration to announce his upcoming film about Mamie Till-Mobley, the mother of Emmett Till, the Black teen who was abducted and killed in 1955 for allegedly talking to a White woman.
To promote the film, Williams remixed the Nike advertisement, adding a picture of Till-Mobley standing over the open casket of her son, weeping. While Williams likely thought the image would strike an emotional note with potential moviegoers, many thought using the picture of Till-Mobley was disrespectful. After facing a mounting backlash, Williams pulled the image from social media and issued an apology.
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“As much as I’d like to address what my intention were and the meaning of those images, it’s more important that I first acknowledge that I seem to have offended and possibly hurt some of the very people I aim to uplift,” Williams wrote on Instagram. “I would absolutely never make light of the tremendous tragedy that foisted Mamie Till Mobly into her life of activism and could never pretend her child bring brutally tortured and executed was her ‘sacrifice.’” Before closing his statement, Williams reiterated his commitment to activism and centering the stories of Black people. “My heart is always with my people and this includes my artistic commitment to telling our stories,” he said. And while I stand for creative expression, every swing ain’t gonna be a homerun. Those who are sincere in this work and concern.”


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