Austin Dexter Williams is Pride Houston’s 2020 Male-Identifying Grand Marshal, an honor that he admits was not on his radar. Though he is excited about his win, he is also conscious that “there is excellent 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 right after getting ignored at the city’s primary hospital though 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 business enterprise was Williams’ very first appreciate, 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 right after his mother located a appreciate letter tucked below his mattress that a male classmate had addressed to him. His parents required 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 pal a note “because he need to be quite lonely now.”
“I just want individuals 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.
Soon after a twelve-year profession at Macy’s, Williams went to operate for The North Face, a business identified for their activewear and outside sports gear. The perks that came with that job incorporated a lot of exciting trips to the ski slopes of Aspen, Colorado.
When North Face issued layoffs, Williams decided to move to Houston right after seeing the city ranked quantity a single on a list of leading cities for Black males. He quickly located a job as a regional design and style specialist with Retail Ideas, a further sportswear firm.
From Designer to Activist
In 2017, Williams became the social-media advertising and marketing manager for Bee Busy, a neighborhood organization that presents absolutely free testing for HIV, syphilis, and hepatitis in addition to a wide array of protected-sex classes. He now serves as the organization’s high-quality assurance specialist. Williams has been featured in quite a few public-service announcements connected to HIV prevention, teen pregnancy, and protected sex. He also hosts several 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 time of 2012, Williams met Dr. Keith Clarke, the appreciate of his life whose passion for neighborhood matched his personal. Their very first date was at El Tiempo Cantina in Montrose, exactly where they sat for hours and fell a lot more and a lot more in appreciate as they talked. In 2017, the males married.
Shortly right after moving to Houston, he started to involve himself in several LGBTQ organizations. The very first 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 individuals.” Later, he organized other events to improve awareness about race relations in the LGBTQ neighborhood.
In 2013, Williams developed the Neighborhood BYOP (Bring Your Personal Picnic) exactly where LGBTQ people played games, shared meals, and reunited with old pals. At every picnic, he featured a single nonprofit organization to aid raise funds and awareness.
Williams’ motto is “I just want individuals in my neighborhood to really feel loved.” He and his husband teamed up to show that appreciate for their neighborhood by hosting month-to-month events they contact Keith & Dexter Presents, exactly where individuals of all ages gathered for lighthearted exciting.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been tricky for Williams and his husband, for the reason that they are extremely active individuals and have not been in a position to celebrate with other individuals. He says they stay active on the internet, attempting to aid raise dollars for their causes.
Williams notes that it is critical to celebrate Pride for the reason that “we should really never ever let any person inform us that we are not worthy, not accountable, and not permitted to do the points 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 completely conscious of mainstream America’s systematic efforts to silence and brutalize Black individuals by more than-policing Black communities. We will not be silenced.”
For a lot more details on Bee Busy, check out beebusy.org.
This report seems in the September 2020 edition of OutSmart magazine.