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I met Junius Williams a few weeks back and I didn’t even know it. When I got home and realized who he was, I ordered his book from the library right away.
Williams is a local historian who I’ve heard speak about the 1967 Newark Riots/Rebellion. When I first moved back to Newark a few years ago, it was the 50 year mark from then and I attended a few events at the time with my son in hand. So I recognized his name when I saw it. His book Unfinished Agendawas published a few years earlier in 2014 and tells his life story as an activist, lawyer, educator, and musician.
Williams is known for Newark, but he’s from the south. He participated in voting rights protests in Montgomery, Alabama in the 60’s and then immediately handed his suitcase over to join a picket line upon arriving to Newark. One of my favorite scenes was his biblical experience on the steps of a church in Montgomery. He’d been cornered by police and klansmen onto the steps of a church. Then his group started singing and the aggressors magically backed off and it saved their lives. Being on the ground like that is central to this story.
Throughout the book, he emphasizes the value of mixing street knowledge and hanging out with academia and professionalism. Williams is someone who frequented local bars and who also went to Yale for law school. That’s familiar territory to me as someone who has been in higher education for years but who has been out chilling for even longer than that. Like he says, school teaches you how to speak up. But understanding the lifestyles of every day people is why you would want to put that talk into action.
Unfinished Agenda is historical, personal, and worldly all at once. Loved it.