Austin Dexter Williams is Pride Houston’s 2020 Male-Identifying Grand Marshal, an honor that he admits was not on his radar. Even though he is excited about his win, he is also conscious that “there is fantastic duty behind it.” He is only the second Black man to be chosen as a grand marshal in Pride Houston’s 42-year history.
An Artistic Education
Williams was born in 1960 at the historically segregated Black hospital in Lafayette, Georgia, exactly where his mother had to be rushed just after getting ignored at the city’s most important hospital whilst she was in labor. He was raised in Chattanooga, Tennessee, exactly where he excelled in the arts at his predominately white higher college as president of the drama club and a member of the college choir. Show company was Williams’ 1st adore, and he also took dance lessons in hopes of becoming “the subsequent Ben Vereen.” More than the years, he starred in college productions of Oliver, South Pacific, Pippin, Showboat, and Chicago.
At the age of 16, Williams came out just after his mother located a adore letter tucked below his mattress that a male classmate had addressed to him. His parents necessary time to adjust to his sexuality, but they had been supportive by the time Williams was 19 and dating a Marine who had been deployed to boot camp. Williams’ mother recommended that he create his buddy a note “because he should be quite lonely now.”
“I just want people today in my neighborhood to really feel loved.”
Williams chose the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, exactly where he majored in psychology with a minor in theater. By the time he graduated, pragmatism had won out more than his dream of performing, and he moved to Atlanta to head up a visual-advertising and marketing group for Macy’s division retailers.
Following a twelve-year profession at Macy’s, Williams went to operate for The North Face, a enterprise identified for their activewear and outside sports gear. The perks that came with that job incorporated a lot of enjoyable trips to the ski slopes of Aspen, Colorado.
When North Face issued layoffs, Williams decided to move to Houston just after seeing the city ranked quantity one particular on a list of top rated cities for Black males. He quickly located a job as a regional style specialist with Retail Ideas, an additional sportswear firm.
From Designer to Activist
In 2017, Williams became the social-media advertising and marketing manager for Bee Busy, a neighborhood organization that delivers free of charge testing for HIV, syphilis, and hepatitis in addition to a wide array of secure-sex classes. He now serves as the organization’s top quality assurance specialist. Williams has been featured in numerous public-service announcements connected to HIV prevention, teen pregnancy, and secure sex. He also hosts many Bee Busy forums such as Trans 101, The MSM (Males who have Sex with Males) Energy of Sex, and Know Your LGBTQ+ Rights.
In the summer season of 2012, Williams met Dr. Keith Clarke, the adore of his life whose passion for neighborhood matched his personal. Their 1st date was at El Tiempo Cantina in Montrose, exactly where they sat for hours and fell additional and additional in adore as they talked. In 2017, the males married.
Shortly just after moving to Houston, he started to involve himself in many LGBTQ organizations. The 1st neighborhood occasion he organized was a forum titled Beneath the Rainbow, a discussion platform aimed at “understanding the pressing issues on who we are as gays, lesbians, trans, asexual, nonbinary people today.” Later, he organized other events to raise awareness about race relations in the LGBTQ neighborhood.
In 2013, Williams produced the Neighborhood BYOP (Bring Your Personal Picnic) exactly where LGBTQ people played games, shared meals, and reunited with old mates. At every picnic, he featured one particular nonprofit organization to assist raise funds and awareness.
Williams’ motto is “I just want people today in my neighborhood to really feel loved.” He and his husband teamed up to show that adore for their neighborhood by hosting month-to-month events they contact Keith & Dexter Presents, exactly where people today of all ages gathered for lighthearted enjoyable.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been tricky for Williams and his husband, mainly because they are extremely active people today and have not been in a position to celebrate with other people. He says they stay active on the net, attempting to assist raise revenue for their causes.
Williams notes that it is essential to celebrate Pride mainly because “we need to in no way let anybody inform us that we are not worthy, not accountable, and not permitted to do the items we do.” Reflecting on the death of George Floyd and the resulting wave of Black Lives Matter demonstrations, Williams emphasizes that “Black Lives Matter has place this nation on notice. We are totally conscious of mainstream America’s systematic efforts to silence and brutalize Black people today by more than-policing Black communities. We will not be silenced.”
For additional data on Bee Busy, stop by beebusy.org.
This report seems in the September 2020 edition of OutSmart magazine.