L. Joy Williams, political strategist, president of Brooklyn NAACP, creator and host of Sunday Civics and chair of the Higher Heights PAC, has already made her presence known. She is continuing to show society her passion for politics and her dedication to civil rights and social justice.
“As a kid, I wanted to be the first fashion designer slash U.S. senator,” says Williams. “So politics has always been like an option, or sort of being involved in electoral politics or organizing or activism has always been where I saw myself.”
Williams’ love for politics has been instilled in her. She became the president of Brooklyn NAACP and was able to accomplish things inside and out of the organization.
“One of my proudest accomplishments [within the organization] is building a branch that is one of the most intergenerational, diverse branches,” says Williams. “When you think of the NAACP, most people think of older Black folks. So, you think of people in their 60s or 70s. I’m proud that our branch is representative of the diversity of the Black community.”
Williams went on to mention that the average age is now 37. They have both Generation X, which she includes herself in, all the way to baby boomers and some millennials. Being able to bring people of all ages and have them engage with the work the organization does is one of the things she is proud of.
The Brooklyn NAACP is an organization that looks to make sure that people of color are treated equally within the political, educational, social and economic branches of society. Williams has given a helping hand in restoring NAACP to what it once was.
“[Brooklyn NAACP] has a storied history. It used to have ten thousand members. We used to have membership meetings at BAM because that’s how large it was at the time,” she says. “So [we are] helping to bring the name and the prominence by building real advocacy campaigns and structures to restore that kind of view of the organization.”
Recently, the Brooklyn NAACP did a mobilization on the repeal of 50a, and they were able to get over 14,000 actions from both online and offline as the legislation was passed. Says Williams, “Using our relationships and organizing fields to do things like that is some of my most proud work.”
While being the president of the Brooklyn NAACP, Williams is also the creator, host and producer of the weekly podcast Sunday Civics. The mission for the podcast is to use the current political landscape so that it’s timely and relevant to teach and engage regular adults in what’s happening around them and how they can be active and engaged or give voice to this process. “Anytime people talk about the need for civic education, they immediately go to ‘we need civics in schools,’ not realizing or not paying attention to that we have whole ass adults who don’t know how government works.”
Williams offered ways that these individuals can engage with politics that would be beneficial to them. One way is to communicate with the people in Congress, the state senate, the state assembly and the city council.
“I have the saying on the show, ‘How can someone represent you if they never hear from you?’ There is this two-way communication that needs to happen. They are communicating their vision for this office and how they would represent you,” explains Williams. “But then you also need to communicate to them what you want, what issues are important in the district [you live in], and how you want them to vote on things.”
Williams believes that individuals should know who represents them at all levels. Individuals should have their representatives’ information on their phones, such as their district office, their phone numbers or their Twitter accounts. The key here for Williams is to help people build community, so there are leaders that individuals trust that are distributing information to them.
“Quite often, when we engage young people or anybody in politics, we start at the federal level, at the presidential level, or Congress,” she points out. “It’s very difficult to see immediate change at that level. I think when teaching and engaging young people or even adults in political work, it’s to start local because people see more of a direct impact on their daily life or in their community.”
As a Black woman in many positions of power, Williams believes that there is more to it than seeing women of color in leadership positions in politics.
“I think it’s not only a question of the importance of seeing us, but also the importance of seeing how we move and the actions and what voice we give to certain issues,” she says. “Representation matters, yes, but then once you get there, how are you using the position or the platform that you have for the betterment of your community?”
Williams has worked to help Black women move up on the ballot. Her work here is connected with Higher Heights PAC. She encourages Black women to vote, not just in the presidential elections but also the state and federal elections because voting on all levels is important.