Jesse Williams
Jesse Williams received the Humanitarian award at the BET Awards 2016 in Los Angeles on 26 June 2016 REUTERS/Danny Moloshok

Jesse Williams is celebrating his 35th birthday today (5 August 2016). The Grey's Anatomy actor is best known for his role in the long-running ABC drama, but he is now also at the forefront of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Since 2009, the Chicago-Illinois native has won viewers over in his role as Dr Jackson Avery. However, at the BET Awards in June, Williams spoke passionately about the racial discrimination in the US when accepting the Humanitarian award for his civil-rights activism.

Explaining why he is so outspoken about the issue, Williams told media at the awards: "What I'd like to see us do is return to a space where it's OK for folks to be proud and outwardly black in public and not have to feel like we have to be safe to live in white spaces, or to make everyone else comfortable when we've spent centuries being uncomfortable.

"People are getting more comfortable being political. We live here, we pay taxes, we should be able to talk about it."

In celebration of his 35th birthday, IBTimes UK rounds up Williams' most inspirational quotes to date.

Jesse Williams' most inspirational quotes

"There has been no war that we have not fought and died on the front lines of. There has been no job we haven't done. There is no tax they haven't levied against us – and we've paid all of them. But freedom is somehow always conditional here. 'You're free', they keep telling us. But she would have been alive if she hadn't acted so... free" – at the BET Awards 2016.

"You need not carry the heavy, hollow burden of racism any longer. Leave it behind. Be for something, and not because it's easy" – Twitter

"Police weapons & cuffs do not dissolve if we don't like their attitude. Our rights should remain intact if they're displeased w/ ours" – Twitter

"This idea of having to explain why it's racial, while we're standing in our own blood is silly. It's racial because it doesn't happen to white people" – interview with Jane Velez-Mitchell's HLN show

"Even with the videotaped evidence of police destroying black people, many freedom-loving Americans remain unconvinced of a systematic problem" – Huffington Post

"If an entire police dept doesn't trust the [legal] system they are sworn to support. How can those under it's boot & gun be expected to?" – Twitter

"WE DO NOT BEGIN AS POLICE PROPERTY, to be freed or detained based on some guy's mood or feeling. We are not theirs" – Twitter

"Every time the story involves a black citizen, doing far less, presumed guilt BEGINS as their's to shed. But one cannot shed blackness" – Twitter

"Just because we're magic, does not mean we're not real" – BET Awards 2016