A deeper understanding: GSBA Scholar Casey Williams on intentional learning of Black history

by GSBA Staff
| Feb 15, 2022

In recognition of Black History Month, GSBA is working to amplify Black voices and histories by celebrating the undeniable impact Black LGBTQ+ activists have had on the LGBTQ+ civil rights movement, shed light on the specific intersection of Black and LGBTQ+ identities, and continue the crucial conversation about systemic racial injustice in Washington and around the globe. As a part of this work, several GSBA Scholars who identify as Black and LGBTQ+ have generously shared their stories, thoughts about intersectionality, what Black History means to them, and about what actions make for strong allyship. 

casey williams thumbnail_12nd Year GSBA Scholar Casey Williams (he/him) grew up in Missouri and Washington and is currently living in Chicago, Illinois. He's attending the University of Illinois at Chicago is majoring in Political Science, with a focus on U.S. educational policy and the 14th Amendment. He plans to attend law school upon graduation to pursue a career in civil rights litigation and legal research. Viewing the rights of the LGBTQ+ community as intertwined with those of all marginalized people, Casey hopes to promote an expansive and intersectional conception of civil rights in the legal field through his work.

GSBA: What is your favorite thing about being Black and LGBTQ+?

Casey: This might be silly, but I’m most appreciative of how my experiences made the concept of intersectionality an intuitive one. Trying - and failing - to categorize myself from a young age gave me a framework for thinking expansively about the systems that frame our lives.

GSBA: In what ways would you like to see people honor Black lives, histories, and experiences throughout the year, and not just in February?

Casey: I’ve found that there’s a lack of common knowledge surrounding what occurred between the height of the Civil Rights era and today. I would like to see a greater push to attain a deeper understanding of how we got from the de jure segregation of the 20th century to the de facto segregation we see today.

I’d also like to see an active effort to read more works by Black authors, particularly by Black women across different genres. Authors like Alice Walker, Toni Morrison, bell hooks, and Zora Neale Hurston have such robust bodies of work and I would be heartened to see greater interest in them. Integrate your bookshelf!

GSBA: Representation matters. Who are some of your Black and/or Black LGBTQ+ heroes and why?

Casey: Pauli Murray! Pauli is best known for being the architect of the NAACP’s argument in Brown v. Board, but she was so much more. It’s difficult to sort a jurist, poet, and Episcopal priest into one box, and I think that’s what I admire most about her: that capacity to be and to do so many things, to express an innate complexity without apology.

I also have a deep well of admiration for James Baldwin. His writing is as pithy on the first read as it is on the fiftieth, and his dedication to nuance is unparalleled. Baldwin’s works never rest on an easy answer. I respect that immensely.

GSBA: Black and LGBTQ+ experiences often tend to get glossed over in history books. Have you done any self-education about Black LGBTQ+ history? If so, what has this looked like for you?

Casey: For me, it entailed learning about what shaped those very labels. There’s a history behind our categories, and it’s more recent than many people know. I was deeply impacted by learning about how sexual, social, and racial boundaries were delineated in post-WWII America.

GSBA: As a LGBTQ+ Person of Color, what are some of the behaviors and principles of a good ally which you appreciate and would like to see people do more of?

Casey: An active commitment to integrating one’s life across lines of race and class is an invaluable expression of allyship. It’s easy to fall into insular habits and lose touch with the lived experiences of people different from us, and it takes work to resist that. Volunteering regularly isn’t the only way, but it can be remarkably effective in broadening how we think about ourselves and our communities.

February is Black History Month, and we encourage all GSBA community members to celebrate Black lives, culture, and history not only this month - but all year long.

Community members can also take action by investing in regional organizations who work to address institutionalized racism, empower Black communities, and ensure that Black histories are never forgotten. Please consider investing and getting involved in regional Black-led organizations like POCAANUrban League of Metropolitan SeattleLavender Rights ProjectBlack Lives Matter Seattle - King CountyNW African American MuseumNAACP Snohomish County, and NAACP Seattle King County.
You can also dine and shop intentionally by supporting the Black-owned small businesses in our community. Check out this guide by GSBA member Intentionalist of Black-owned businesses throughout the Puget Sound, including several GSBA members.

Additionally, you can diversify your intake of news and information by following GSBA member Converge Media, a Black-led news media organization that centers and amplifies stories of Black community in the Pacific Northwest and around the country.

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