Ask an Activist: Ashley Williams
We continue our profile of youth activists in the Charlotte area who have turned their passion into action. These young people are making an impact across various spectrums of activism.
Meet Ashley Williams
When were you first exposed to activism?
When I started grade school, my mother placed my sister and I in cultural enrichment programs for Black people at our church. I was only given respectable Black people to look to as activists and mentors. It wasn't until I got older that I was able to form my own opinions about what constitutes activism. Now, I have less repeatable ideas about what constitutes activism and who deserves praise for fighting injustices.
In what ways does police violence activism intersect with other causes?
Police violence stifles the community's ability to police itself. Police violence create tensions and fractures in our community that are often hard to recover from. I imagine a world and a community where we spend more time thinking about restorative justice and community policing (which has nothing to do with the police), instead of trying to heal ourselves from the traumas caused by people outside of our communities.
What is Black-Palestinian Solidarity?
Black- Palestinian solidarity is the solidarity that exists between two groups who've been harmed by white supremacy, settler colonialism, and ethnic cleansing. Structural and systemic oppression has global consequences. Since I've been organizing for the movement for black lives here in Charlotte, the community of Palestinians has opened their hearts and their arms to me and I'm grateful that we can come together to fight common oppressors.
What are the misconceptions people have about the Black Lives Matter movement?
People have so many misconceptions about the movement for black lives! Many are confused about the structure of the movement and they are not sure how it can sustainable. I think this has something to do with failures or mistakes of movements that came before this one. People also think that the movement is anti white. This has something to do with the ways in which this movement deliberately, and purposefully prioritizes queer, trans, femme, and ultimately black bodies. This movement understands the importance of making sure people know that blackness is multiplicitous.
People's inability to pin point these facets of the movement make it hard for them to understand it.
As a millennial, what are some ways other generations can learn the activism now taking place?
Other generations need to listen to us and get out of our way! It's our turn to fight for freedom. We have learned from the mistakes of our elders. We have taken so much away from the successes of our elders. Now, it's time for us to lead the way. We need the support of other generations, and we need them to give us space.
What have you learned about yourself through your activism experiences?
I've learned to trust my community. I've learned to lean on them and allow them to support me. I've learned how to support others more effectively. I've also learned more about love because of the movement. The person who founded black lives matter Toronto told me that the way we experience love and the way we love others is how we give to the movement. I've been thinking about this a lot lately.
How has social media played a role in your activism?
Social media has enhanced the way that I'm able to connect with organizers everywhere. Social media also opens me up to criticism about my ideas which can be both harmful and helpful. Social media has also made it easier for the police to keep up with what I'm doing. I'm getting more creative about communication.
About Ashley Williams
Ashley S. Williams is a queer black organizer and artist working in Charlotte, NC. They attended the University of North Carolina at Charlotte to study dance and philosophy in 2011. Ashley is currently a Master’s Candidate in a program for Ethics and Applied Philosophy at UNCC. They have been an active participant around Black Lives Matter, Black-Palestinian Solidarity, and ending police violence in Charlotte. Ashley works to decentralize whiteness and build community in non-colonial ways. Ashley’s interests include intersectionality, women’s gender and sexuality studies, and black liberation.