2021 Annual Award for Distinguished Service to the Cause of Unitarian Universalism: Elandria Williams

Posthumously Presented by the Unitarian Universalist Association to Elandria Williams

Unitarian Universalism is healthier, more vibrant, more diverse and more welcoming in every way because Elandria spent their lifetime modeling the power of servant-leadership, prophetic truth-telling, and impassioned, faithful presence.

Our faith tradition was blessed the day Erven and Elnora Williams chose to raise their twins, Elandria and Frederick, at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church (TVUUC) where they lived in Knoxville, Tennessee.

While still a high school youth at TVUUC in the 1990s, E served on the Thomas Jefferson District transformation team, boldly urging them to face their harmful claim of Jefferson as a faith hero and shifting them to a new name and mission as the Southeast District.

As a young adult in the early 2000s, they became a significant leader in the Continental Unitarian Universalist (UU) Young Adult Network, leading Anti-Racism/Anti-Oppression trainings across the country, and serving as a Southern Regional Organizational Consultant. Elandria went on to co-found the Groundwork Anti-Racism/Anti-Oppression training and organizing collective and served as Young Adult and Campus Ministry staff, directing programs for Youth and Young Adults of Color.

Elandria's commitment to mentoring youth and young adults of color immeasurably strengthened our religious tradition. As part of a lifelong commitment to honoring E's own loving ancestors and mentors, Elandria was powerfully called to raise up young BIPOC UU leaders.

Elandria faithfully supported them through the struggles of our white-dominated faith with empathic realism, loving truth-telling, and eternal founts of hope that the dream of a multi-racial, multi-ethnic, multi-abled, multi-gendered Unitarian Universalism is worth the faithful act of daily perseverance.

Elandria's vision of beautiful solutions for a global communal economy extended to Unitarian Universalist governance and blessed our faith when we needed it most. When Unitarian Universalism was powerfully tested by multiple crises of losing its most senior staff to sudden resignations and its moderator to cancer, Elandria stepped in to help nominate three Black, Indigenous People of Color interim co-presidents of the denomination. Furthermore, Elandria accepted the position of co-moderator, innovating in shared leadership and serving during a time of great transformation in Unitarian Universalism.

The lasting power of Elandria's service to Unitarian Universalism is their vivacious and joyful spirit. Decades of service to a persistent vision of collective liberation notwithstanding, it was the power of E's presence that contributed the most to the cause of Unitarian Universalism.

E's joyful expression of proud, loud, Southern, Black, queer Unitarian Universalism has breathed life into our faith. Elandria demanded that we who are young and elderly, who are queer, who are Black, Asian, Indian, Latinx, and Indigenous, we who are disabled and transgender, we who are not wealthy nor educated must speak up, sing out, talk back, and live proudly and fully into our authentic glory.

Every word spoken and every act accomplished, every hour given, and every conflict engaged in service of the future of this faith, Elandria did it all with their whole heart.

Elandria’s precious life of service among us ended on September 23rd, 2020, at the age of 41.

It is a great honor to posthumously bestow the Award for Distinguished Service to the Cause of Unitarian Universalism to Elandria “E” Williams.

Elandria “E” Williams, presente.