What follows is a verbatum transcription of the powerful speech delivered by activist and entertainer Byron Allen at the 2023 Grio Awards. It is sure to be spoken of and referenced in coming years as a call to conscience, not just to all Americans, but to the world at large. It was like a measured and well-crafted closing arguement; it was delivered with lawyerly skill and eloquence. The ARGUS encourages you to read it in its entirety.
“Dr. Martin King’s widow, the true Queen of America, once said to me ‘Byron, our greatest weapon is The Truth. If we bring The Truth, we will alwats win.
“So tonight, let’s talk about The Truth.
“The Truth is: Black America is under attack.
“Over twenty states have put laws on the books to stop teachers from teaching The Truth. They’re downplaying our contributions to this beautiful country, and changing our narrative, and deminishing our images.
“Unfortunately, we have seen this before. You (America) erase the truth so you can repeat the atrocities again.
“When we see positive images of ourselves, it lifts our spirits. YOU CANNOT BE WHAT YOU CANNOT SEE. So tonight, let’s bring The Truth.
Here’s another Truth: UNFORTUNATELY, TOO MANY AMERICANS ARE STRUGGLING TO SUCCEED. Black Americans. Hispanic Americans. Asian Americans. Gay Americans. Jewish Americans. Muslim Americans. Single mothers and White Americans. We’re all positioned to succeed when everyone — WHEN EVERYONE — can benefit from the riches of America. And when do that, we are one… and we can compete in this global society.
Here’s some more Truth: THE GREATEST TRADE DEFICIT IN AMERICA IS THE TRADE DEFICIT BETWEEN WHITE CORPORATE AMERICA AND BLACK AMERICA. And as Dr. Martin Luther King taught us, we cannot survive with two Americas. We must achieve one America. We cannot have one America until we deal with The Truth. Se here is The Truth: AMERICA, YOU ARE KILLING BLACK AMERICA… In the classroom, by making sure we do not get a proper education. You’re killing us in the court room by making sure we do not have equal justice. You’re killing us in the board room by making sure we do not get real economic inclusion… and you’re killing us in the hospital room by making sure that we do not have proper health care. And you’re doing all of this long before you kill us in the streets.
More Truth: IF WE DO NOT CLOSE THE EDUCATION GAP, WE CANNOT CLOSE THE WEALTH GAP. I can tell you Black America will be forty years from now with one simple data point (question): what is the Black student population of the top 50 universities that White corporate America recruits from? If it remains under 1% or 2% (as opposed to where it SHOULD be — proportionate with the Black population — approximately 14%), nothing will change in Black America… and America will never realize its fullest potential.
If you come to my office, when you get off of the elevator there’s a sign that says ‘There Isn’t a Bank in the World Where I Can Deposit ERxcuses — So I Don’t Accept Them”.
America, we can longer accept your excuses.
Our contributions are enormous. It’s impossible for America to be the wealthiest country in the world without the contributions of Black America. Our partnership going forward needs to be more respectful, inclusive and balanced.
Now, for all the young people out there, my wish is for you to recognize in these extraordinary icons (gestures to the audience, filled with African American celebrities and noteworthy public figures). We want to inspire you to cultivate your own talents, self determination, and to encourage the greatness that lives inside each of you.
In this room, on this stage, or wherever you are, remember one thing: YOU ARE ONE OF THE MOST VALUABLE ASSETS WE HAVE. WE NEED YOU. Your contributions make us stronger. To create a positive change we all need and deserve, your voices must be heard. With you, we can achieve one America… and when we achieve one America, we will achieve one race — The Human Race.
Never forget what Harriet Tubman taught us — EVERY GREAT DREAM BEGINS WITH A DREAMER. Always remember — YOU HAVE WITHIN YOU THE STRENGTH, THE PATIENCE AND THE PASSION TO REACH FOR THE STARS, TO CHANGE THE WORLD.
WE WILL SEE YOU AT THE TOP.
— Byron Allen.