One of the images promoting “Till” shows the late teen’s mother, Mamie Till, with a tear running down her cheek. The other sees the mourning mother over her disfigured son’s casket. Emmett was brutally murdered as 14-year-old by white men in 1955 Money, Miss., after being falsely accused of whistling at a white woman.
“Believe in something even if it means sacrificing everything,” read the black and white photos posted on Sept. 24. The text is borrowed from Colin Kaepernick’s Nike campaign, which celebrates the 30th anniversary of the slogan, “Just Do It.”
Williams, who won praise a two years ago when he gave a rousing speech about Black oppression at the BET Awards, deleted the posts. But he didn’t do so before screenshots were captured and folks began chiming in.
“jesse williams wyd.”
“It’s in poor taste..the picture shouldn’t have been used with the ‘Nike esque’ meme on it. I can understand what he was trying to do but it could be interpreted as exploitive.”
“Jesse Williams posted that photo of Mamie Till with the Kaepernick quote like she made a choice to sacrifice her son to uh… murder. Let’s think about things before we slap a meme over it.”
“a nike meme of emmett till’s mother to promote a movie????? i hate jesse williams. wow.”
About an hour after Williams’ controversial tweet, the actor shared a screenshot to a Deadline article detailing what his film is about. It follows Mamie Till’s quest for justice in the wake of her son’s death. “Till” is Williams’ directorial debut, according to the movie industry website, and it has the support of the Till family.
“I’m honored to be directing the story of Mamie & Emmett: a tale of revolutionary defiance in the face of tremendous personal and public devastation,” Williams said in a statement to the website. “An exploration of power and pulling back the curtain on cultural violence; of boyhood and maternity challenging America’s reflex to hide from itself; underdogs refusing to pretend that terror is freedom.”