September 24, 2020

Remembering Elandria Williams

Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung - New York

Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung is shocked and devastated by the news of the sudden passing of our dear friend, long-time partner and comrade Elandria Williams.

Elandria became a partner of our office early in its work. She participated in our 2014 “Mapping Socialist Strategies” conference, which featured leaders of the Black Lives Matter Movement, Democratic Socialists of America, trade and climate activists, as well as elected representatives from left parties of Europe. Elandria’s comments on centering economic democracy within electoral campaigns—“Weakspots of Neoliberalism”—presaged much of the left resurgence of the 2010s.

“We [put] an electoral campaign alongside infrastructure and cooperative economic development. I think that [was] the difference,” she said of the late Jackson Mayor Chokwe Lumumba’s victory. “Here’s the win of having this person elected, but having it side-by-side was powerful.”

In recent years, we had the privilege and the joy to work and collaborate on numerous projects, most recently in organizing the PeoplesHub’s Circle on Climate Justice and Community Renewal. She was a highly esteemed member of the Global Working Group Beyond Development. In all this, Elandria saw the necessity of a “movement of movements,” connecting the dots between everything from combatting the Far Right to tackling the climate crisis as the bridge to liberation in the 21st century.

Elandria was, in the words of Black feminist activist and scholar Toni Cade Bambara, “the best of our traditions.” Elandria’s activism highlighted the necessary connections between racial, economic and disability justice. Her visibility as a disabled activist was an indication of advocacy and strength, a “bearing witness” that allowed for a deeper conversation on the need for care within our movements. “We are worthy,” she wrote in a poem of the same title. “Not because of what we produce, but because of who we are.”

Everyone who was lucky enough to meet Elandria was captured by her overwhelming friendliness and openness. But as a southerner, she didn’t suffer fools gladly. Her life’s example was that deep learning, listening and teaching were essential movement work.

Her wonderful heart stopped beating on September 23. We will miss her dearly and will always cherish her memory.

Elandria Williams, of the Highlander Research and Education Center in Tennessee, keeps it on target at the Struggle for Economic Democracy event in Jackson, MS in 2015.