Member Monday: Spotlight on E’a Williams

Posted: August 24, 2020 in Member Monday
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Written By: Cordell Longstreath Transcribed By: Jeremy Jones Edited By: Asiaha Butler

After a long break, R.A.G.E. is relaunching the Member Monday campaign during this time of COVID-19. 2020 has been a wild year, but our association will continue to support our community with emergency relief, census advocacy, and stewardship for community development, and Member Mondays are an opportunity for the individual residents who are often unsung heroes to be highlighted. We will be publishing a member profile every other week and this week’s member is Ea ‘The Wholistic Artist’ Williams, a community wellness guru who uses their diverse talents and experiences to heal Greater Englewood and was also awarded last year’s Member of Year at RAGE’s award ceremony. 

Cordell Longstreath (Interviewer)- CL

Ea Williams- EW

CL: Who are you and where did you grow up?

EW: I am Ea Williams. I was raised in Uptown Chicago, Heart of Uptown, right by Truman College off of Racine and Montrose. My family is from Englewood. My mom and her older sister are the only ones who live on the north side, everybody else is from Englewood, which I actually just found out.The Original Holy Ark is my grandfather’s church and I think that’s on 52nd and Wood and that’s the one he started and was at a deacon at forever, so I spent a lot of my younger years over there but I had no idea I was in Englewood. Now I understand why I kept coming back here. I was K-8, for the most part, in Uptown and then I went to private school; I was sponsored by my grandparent who was a little affluent in LA and didn’t want me going to public school. I had the blessing to go to private school, then came high school and my mom moved to the suburbs to keep the good education going, then I did two years at Downer’s Grove South, then I went to Waubonsie Valley High School.

CL: What did you do for fun growing up?

EW:  I’m probably the most consistent person and character you will ever meet. I was already all these things, way back then, which didn’t stand out on the north side where there’s a bunch of different types of people, a bunch of different cultures and everybody’s interested in uplifting each other’s different ideas and cultures. I have always been a dancer; dancing was my mom’s way of keeping me out of the streets and keeping me focused, so I’ve always been into dance. My mom will tell you I should’ve always been a massage therapist. She said  I got it naturally, she said my father was good at it naturally, so if you believe those types of things are in DNA well I can thank him for that!

CL: Any clubs or organizations?

EW: Growing up I danced a lot at the park district and I started off with the formative years in ballet at Joseph Holmes. I was on my way to ballet class and across the street at Gill Park I heard these drums playing and it was Fred Baker’s West Indian Folk Dance Company, so that was about at 10 and I started dancing with him with the West Indian Dance Theater and that was my first professional experience.

CL: DId you go to college?

EW: I went directly to college, did not pass go, I went to Howard, it was either Howard or the military if you can believe I was that gung-ho about the military. So I only applied to Howard and if I wasn’t going to make it to Howard I was going to go the the military, but I made it to Howard.

I Just (only) went to Howard then my mom got in a really bad accident and then I was pregnant and I didn’t want to go to college in the first place. It was my mother making me go. It was a great experience, I discovered the band, I was there for all the experience. It was like “do the right thing” and I was living on all of that.

CL: What did you play?

EW:My feet! Man, I’m a dancer, I told you I was a dancer. I was in Oo La La, the dancing girls in the band. I danced.I actually went to be in the drumline…I always wanted to be a drummer and I went to go be a drummer, but there was still that sexist role-playing and he was like “ooh aren’t you cute, you’re here for the dancer auditions” and he literally took me by the shoulders and turned me around and gave me a cute little nudge to the dancer auditions and I was just like, “first of all how you’d even know I’m a dance? When I told you I was looking for the drummer auditions”! But I love Mr Newsome it was a great experience.

CL: What led you back to Chicago?

EW: So, I left college to take care of my mom, because she had an accident and broke all her foot and had a cast all the way up her hip, and at that time I was pregnant with my first son so I was six months pregnant so I came back to take care of her and have my first baby. I did that, went back to school, decided it was bullshit, left to paramedic school in New York while I was in that little break and I was like “I’m gonna take that to New York and that’s gonna be my day job while I pursue the dancing and acting career, but it was a super good old boy network up there and there was a hiring freeze and there was like no opportunities and so I started doing other things and then they bombed the towers then aI left and I didn’t know they bombed the pentagon until I got there so I left came back to Chicago for a second went back to New York because I had another opportunity then back to DC. Ended up pregnant. Stayed there and then his dad was like “enough of that you need to come to Chicago”, and then we arranged for Miller Beach, It was great… until it wasn’t and then that’s how I ended up on the south side.

CL: Did you immediately come to the southside?

EW: I was already here. I couldn’t afford to be in Uptown anymore and it wasn’t the same energy that I left even though it was still a good mix of people.

(she continues)

EW: They weren’t grassroots down to earth people. Which is what it was when I grew up. Now it’s all those same colors, but the same people come in and the colors are the same but the attitude is different. I was trying to figure out why I wasn’t comfortable there and I loved it so much.

CL: Did you go straight to Englewood?

EW: Yeah, it was Auburn Gresham but it’s all the same. It’s literally here on 79th and Racine so.. That’s where I moved and I’ve always been into community activism. Not on purpose just as a human being. By helping people in the community the way my mom was… Cats would run away from school, run away from home. Their parents be like, “yo, is Katie over there?”. Mom was like, “alright”. They would run to my momma house cause my momma was like the … pretty much everybody house in the neighborhood where you can go and you’re very safe. Safe haven. It was like everybody’s crib, so it wasn’t even about community activism it was just like you so and so a crackhead and they got kids. Feed them, cloth them, bathe them, and don’t let them be out here like that. Just because they mama, being like “uggh” seeing they momma then you know she going through something. You know nowadays mama a crackhead, daddy an alcoholic, and you’ll watch the kids be raggedy in the streets and people talk about them?! We’ll still feed em, still take care of them, as much as we could, you wouldn’t give mama nothing cause you know, she’ll sell it. But you don’t not take care of the kids

CL: What led you to Englewood?

EW: Believe it or not, an affordable place to live. I ended up getting a good job and I couldn’t afford to live in Hyde Park and when I was living in Hyde Park I hated it. I didn’t like being over there, again the atmosphere had changed. It’s not the Hyde Park of the 70’s,80’s, or 90’s. Now over there people are being looked at, like the boys are over like ‘what yall doing here?’. My kids aren’t the wear-your-pants-saggy kind of kids. One might have locs, but  clothes are nice. So they don’t look like trouble or anything, but that was starting to happen. In real life, people grabbing at they purse when they walk past.

(She adds)

 That’s what brought me back to Englewood, just an open apartment and affordable housing.

CL: What got you involved with R.A.G.E.?

So like I said, I’ve always done this work and for the last two years I’ve done it for large scale nonprofit organizations and I just kept seeing the same thing over and over again. I’m always into recognizing patterns because you have to recognize patterns if you want to make a change. Cause if there’s a pattern happening then that means it’s a routine that needs to be changed. So after working with those places so long and just seeing the same results… like, why do we have these so called art programs in our neighborhood to address our trauma and nothing changing? Why do we keep needing them? If we have all the programs working for them… Understand these larger no for profits. How much money they’re making, it’s just like why do they think non profits make any money? So I learned a lot about non profits and boards and my place in the system and how to be a better more effective supporter of the system. I was just having a conversation about colonized minds and how they colonize. There’s a whole other layer they develop that nobody understands. So, by working on finding a better way to use my energy. There weren’t any other organizations making moves that I heard of.. Other than RAGE.

CL: Are you involved with any EQLP Task Forces?

Jobs and Economic Development Task Force, because that goes along with what I feel is my purpose and that’s that it’s not about healing bodies and minds, you need to heal the infrastructures and we’ll heal the rest of ourselves from that. Jobs and Economic Development, and Health and Wellness as a Health Navigator. They pretty much all call on me  because I have stuff for everybody and I’m generally called in.

CL: What is one of your favorite RAGE moments?

I love all the So Fresh Saturdays. At the So Fresh Saturdays I do chair massage and that’s another reason I appreciate RAGE, a lot of these organization people are calling me to come out and do stuff but nobody wants to sustain me and pay me, but I have to say that every time RAGE has invited me out they also would throw something back, though I would do it for free anyway. So I appreciate that because they actually recognize this is what I do for a living. But I love all the So Fresh Saturdays because I get to interact with the community through doing massage and just the enlightenment to how great massage is. It’s very rewarding to me of course because I am a massage therapist.

Ea has become a staple of Greater Englewood’s community events. She spent time with I Grow Chicago leading community yoga sessions on Saturdays at Kusanya Cafe, and since spearheading her own endeavors you can catch her everywhere but especially at her location called Space Englewood. I personally spotted her bike marshalling at Think Outside Da Block’s Roll -N- Peace 5, her own Pimp Picnic, and the most recent So Fresh Saturday on 66th and Halsted. Dancing, drumming, making art, and healing bodies with her hands are consistent actions that define her character. Support Ea’s goal of being a wandering guru by donating to her fundraiser to get her Thug Hippie School Bus!

Thank You

For Serving

Greater Englewood!!!

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