Noella Williams Is an Activist, an Anime Fan, and an Author (In That Order)

You’ve professed your love for music and music festivals very publicly before. Do you remember your first festival experience and how that’s shaped your life?

My first music festival was Camp Flog Gnaw organized by Tyler, The Creator, in 2017. It was a golden lineup: Solange, Lana Del Rey, Mac Miller, Kehlani…. To this day I’ve never seen a better lineup. I remember as a kid I always wanted to go to concerts, but my parents were working-class and didn’t have the time to take me to see live music. It kind of opened the doors to the world and travel, and having a friend who’s always down for a random concert. Funnily enough, I’m going to five shows this week alone.

What is the one article you’re most proud of during your career so far?

One of my favorite pieces is my Washington Post article. It’s about how I found community in the South as a Black queer woman. I never expected to have a Washington Post byline so early in my career. I 100% stand by defending the South, whenever people try to slander it and throw it away. Communities of color are the reason the South is still trying to be as progressive as it can be. I didn’t always feel that way—there was just a lot of hurt and trauma that I had to kind of do away with. But being back home and surrounded by my HBCU and other radical organizers is what made me really love the South.

You have Pokemon Trainer in your social media bio, which I’m obsessed with. As a Black woman enjoying a predominantly white industry filled with Twitch streamers and alpha male gamers, how have you come to reclaim your space?

Gaming is so important to me because my brother introduced me to it and gave me my first GameBoy—the same one I have tatted! A lot of men will try to minimize you whenever you remotely talk about anything that’s more male-dominated, like music or Marvel. There’s so many spaces for Black girl gamers now, but after so much misogynoir, it’s what inspired me to write a little chapter about it in my upcoming book. Like, why did I have to wait until I was in my 20s to be able to select my skin color in a video game? It’s identity destroying, but I’m glad there’s people today who are making in-game mods to customize skin color on games like The Sims.

In January you and Planned Parenthood of Florida went viral for—to put it crudely—shaming lawmakers in Tallahassee, Florida, at a hearing and demanding better in regards to Florida’s 16-week abortion ban. Tell me a little bit about that experience.

I was so nervous for that moment! I remember writing my speech and asking my boss if it was good. I had never done anything like that before—I’d only spoken at a high school graduation with hundreds of people, at least. But for this, you are literally facing people that determine your fate. I’m so grateful for everyone that was supporting me throughout all of it, because I did it multiple times after that. I think a community like that needs to be fostered by an HBCU, because without Gen Action, I wouldn’t have had a platform to do any of that. I kid you not, I think I was at the capitol every week. It was very tiring and I was very burnt out while organizing and also finishing my last semester in college, but I would not trade that for anything.

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