Elandria Williams (she/they/E), a powerful organizer, a passionate Unitarian Universalist faith leader, and co-founder of Black Lives of Unitarian Universalism, joined the ancestors on Sept. 23, 2020. While we are still processing E’s transition, we wanted to share some reflections about Elandria to honor who they were to us.
The diverse groups of people from movement spaces and faith communities mourning E is a testament to the tenacity of E’s leadership and the depth of their spirit. Many people are still sharing memories of E using the hashtag #ElandriaTaughtUs. This is unsurprising because one couldn’t be in a room with Elandria without learning how to be a better human.
One video that folks have shared shows people gathered around E as they teach a call and response song:
“Solid as a rock.
Rooted like a tree.
I am here.
In my rightful place.”
In a world where so many systems and people aim to create disarray and disconnection, it is a deeply spiritual challenge to stay rooted. Yet, that’s exactly what Elandria did. They kept their organizing unapologetically rooted in their commitments to Black liberation and disability justice. They brought this same rootedness into their leadership within Unitarian Universalism, always saying hard things in love and never forgetting to center their work in Black freedom and Black joy.
“I worked with Elandria in the very beginning of forming BLUU,” said BLUU’s Executive Director Lena K. Gardner. “I didn’t know her very well before then. We had our disagreements, but I always felt her love and we always left things in a good place. She was never afraid to feel her feelings or express them, and was welcoming with a warmth I have rarely experienced in movement spaces. I have long admired the way she loves and moves ever since those early days and will miss her. I hope to honor her legacy by continuing to build and strengthen BLUU as an organization — and to always move in love and truth.”
The fabric of who Elandria was will remain in BLUU’s DNA forever. We are so grateful that Elandria taught us how to take up space and to do so with moral clarity. No one ever had to figure out what E’s values were because they spoke them boldly and then lived them fiercely.
“When BLUU was formed in 2015, what I remember Elandria saying over and over again was, ‘we have to say it plain,’” said BLUU co-founder and BLUU Advisory Team member Leslie Mac. “E offered that same advice to me so often in all the work we did together. I watched E, with the support of 1500 Black organizers, negotiate the immediate release of a young man from the custody of what seemed like a battalion of police officers in Cleveland, OH. I watched E navigate the misogynoir thrown at her as she led our UUA as Co-Moderator with ease and grace. I watched E pull me close and talk earnestly and effectively about the need for us to have a strong inside AND outside game. She would say, ‘Leslie I do not care what people think our relationship is like on the outside. We know the truth and that is enough.’ I take that lesson with me always. Elandria taught me that organizing is a journey and one that requires the application of so many different skills and tactics. E taught me above all else to love our people, speak truth to power, and care for yourself, even when it’s hard. In her absence I hear her voice singing to me: ‘Solid as a rock. Rooted like a tree. We are here. Standing strong… in our rightful place.’”
The BLUU Organizing Collective Board is committed to meaningfully and tangibly honoring Elandria’s legacy in the long term. This commitment requires discerning, deep listening and community partnership. E taught us to take care in our work, and to move only when we are collectively ready to move. We will share updates about this work as this promise takes more concrete shape.
Please consider donating to the GoFundMe that E’s community started for their niece and nephews. They were very active in their lives and helped support them financially. #ElandriaTaughtUs to take care of each other, and we ask that our community help support E’s family in that spirit.