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In the wake of a petition circulating to have Jesse Williams fired from Grey’s Anatomy, many of his celebrity friends and colleagues are speaking out, and sharing their support. HipHollywood caught up with guests during the 2016 Essence Festival in New Orleans, and got their thoughts on Williams’ powerful BET Awards acceptance speech, and how it has motivated them.

“It’s starting conversation, which is what it’s supposed to do,” said Jordin Sparks. “He took that moment of recognition, and turned it around, and said hey come on guys, we have to start the conversation, before action can get started.”

“It was so powerful, it was so needed, it was so on time,” added Lance Gross. “Jesse is a friend of mine, and I was watching and rooting for him.”

“Jesse’s speech at the BET Awards is exactly what I believe artists are supposed to do,” said Malik Yoba, who has been very vocal throughout his career about social injustices and racial issues. “And Robeson said it the best, artists are the gatekeepers of the truth.”

Hit the Floor star, Rob Riley, who along with Yoba can be seen in the TV One original film Bad Dad Rehab, said while he supports Williams, he’s not surprised by the backlash that he has gotten.

“Anytime you stand for what you believe in there are going to be consequences,” added Riley. “When you are trying t do something great, and bring people together, there are going to be people there to tear you down.”

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