While sitting at a Panda Express near her college campus, actress and comedian Jessica Williams got a call from her agent, who told her that she got the gig as correspondent for The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. From then on, her career skyrocketed.
Williams came to UMD Thursday night to deliver a satirical lecture on politics, race and gender. She encouraged us college students, highlighting the black crowd in attendance, to “take it upon ourselves to vote” in the upcoming election, while criticizing Donald Trump as the republican candidate.
“Sojourner Truth did not write ‘Ain’t I a Woman’ for someone who says, ‘Grab them by the p*ssy’ to become President,” Williams said.
Williams also talked about how her upbringing helped her realize the social divide between men and women in black culture. She pointed out how growing up, there was a limited amount of black women in media who represented black culture with their looks.
Williams credits her late grandmother for inspiring her career choice, and her mother for giving her a tough-love lesson to never settle for average.
I am a black woman and I am a feminist and I am so many things. I am truly honored that people love my work. But I am not yours.
— Jessica R. Williams (@msjwilly) February 17, 2015
From her college career to becoming a correspondent, Williams struggled with finding her place in society. She asked Stewart what her “thing” as a correspondent was, and later discovered that using comedy to address social injustice was her passion.
“That emotion you have when you hear something terrible on the news, there’s a good thing in that. You can create something good in that,” Williams said. “With social media and the internet, you have an amazing platform to get things out there.”
Sophomore psychology major Chioma Ahaghotu feels Williams inspired her to voice her opinions.
“Sometimes it is hard for me to express who I am because I feel as though my peers will think of me as a female minority, or just another African-American woman,” Ahaghotu said. “After listening to what Jessica had to say, I am going to start expressing myself more, [and] speaking on racial and injustice issues that go on around campus.”
Junior environmental science and policy major Emily Starobin was also enlightened. “Being a white woman, I don’t know what to do all the time and I don’t want to offend anyone. I want to do as much as I can to help people,” Starobin said. “The way she can express serious issues in a funny way is a really great way to tell her story.”
Williams encouraged white males in the audience to be available, listen and speak on women’s behalf in places where there is no space for them to speak.
“Don’t sit on that discontent,” Williams said. “Share it.”