Jesse Williams never intended to offend when he used a meme to promote his new movie about Emmett Till’s mother.
The “Grey’s Anatomy” star put his own twist on the heavily memed Colin Kaepernick Nike ad to promote the upcoming film. A photo of Till’s mom crying over her 14-year-old son’s casket was captioned, “Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything.”
Critics on Twitter, however, accused Williams of making light of the mother’s grief.
“I would absolutely never make light of the tremendous tragedy that foisted Mamie Till Mobley into her life of activism and could never pretend her child being brutally tortured and executed was her ‘sacrifice,'” Williams said in long-form statement on Twitter. “That doesn’t even kinda make sense, never mind being absurd and ahistorical.
“The images were designed to highlight the tremendous sacrifices that Mamie made by sharing her unrelenting journey for justice — including boldly sharing those iconic images from her son’s funeral, which changed the world. I adopted an iconic contemporary visual framework to connect past to present and contextualize our language around loss, leadership and sacrifice.”
Noting, “My intent aside, I take responsibility for how they were received.”
“My heart is always with my people and this includes my artistic commitment to telling our stories,” he concluded. “Always have, always will. And while I stand for creative expression, every swing ain’t gonna be a home run. (And y’all know I swing a lot.) Those who are sincere in this work and concern, I thank you.”
Till was lynched in Mississippi in 1955 after being accused of offending a white woman in her family’s grocery store.
The movie will star Williams and Whoopi Goldberg.