Who Is a Criminal? with Toni-Michelle Williams

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This bonus episode is brought to you with support from The Marguerite Casey Foundation. V sits down with Atlanta-based artist, celebrated community organizer, and Solutions Not Punishment Collaborative Executive Director Toni-Michelle Williams. When she isn’t protesting injustices or going toe-to-toe with police and city council, Toni-Michelle is finding ways to make Atlanta more joyful for Black and trans folks. From documenting the city’s public safety failures to partnering with the Citizen app, V learns how Toni-Michelle is supporting her community’s needs and helping cultivate their sense of belonging. Follow Toni-Michelle’s work at @Snap4Freedom on Twitter and Instagram. For more information on policing, reformist, and abolitionist efforts in Atlanta, check out the Deeper Than Visibility report.

Keep up with V on TikTok at @underthedesknews and on Twitter at @VitusSpehar. And stay up to date with us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram at @LemonadaMedia.

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Toni-Michelle Williams, V Spehar

V Spehar  00:05

Hey friends, today we have a super special show and an incredible guest who I am so excited to bring to your attention. Toni Michelle has served as a policy member of the Atlanta mayor’s 2019 task force to reimagine and repurpose the Atlanta city detention center. And also, the Atlanta police use of force Task Force in 2020, which was created after the murder of Ray sharp Brooks. Today, she’s here to talk to us about how she’s helping to make communities more safe and joyful. I am so excited. You’re here, Miss Tony. Michelle,


Toni-Michelle Williams  00:36

thank you for having me. I’m so excited to meet you and talk with you today.


V Spehar  00:42

I’m excited to have you. I’ve been looking forward to this all week, honestly. So when did you first recognize a need for the type of work that you do in your community.


Toni-Michelle Williams  00:53

As a young person from Atlanta, you know, I experienced a lot of hardships growing up in my family, my mom was a single mom, who experienced domestic violence and things and, you know, it was literally people in my school, the community around me and my friends and their parents and moms, who were also single moms supporting us. And so I knew that there were other people like me, and my friends also had similar experiences. And when I went off to college, you know, I experienced some violence on campus, you know, being a trans woman, and being placed in male dormitories. At historically Black colleges and universities, I had to learn how to advocate for myself, not like create a wall and go into a shell, but to like, speak up and act out so that people could hear me and see me. And so I started working in my senior year of college in 2012, started working at a nonprofit that’s now called the LGBTQ licensure of Hampton Roads in Norfolk, Virginia. And I was running and supporting a T-girls empowerment group. And I learned so much about trans women’s experiences outside of mine, and you know, the things that they were facing in the communities that they were building. And so I committed myself to that community into that journey to support it all my girls, and all my family.


V Spehar  02:22

So you just said, you know, when you went to historically black college and university, and they misplaced you in the men’s dormitory, and that was like, that’s one thing that has happened, that’s a struggle that trans women have to overcome so often, what are some other things that folks might not think of that are, you know, injustices that trans women have to face just for existing?


Toni-Michelle Williams  02:44

Absolutely, I think one thing is isolation. We often times forget about people being pushed out of families and out of institutions that they pour so much of their time, and their skill, right, and their vision into, we’ve heard about the violence is that black trans women’s face, across the country and across the world. I also, you know, don’t want to forget about the experiences of young trans girls who are oftentimes forgotten about and push to take care of themselves and also take care of their families, and the kinds of work that they have to get into in order to survive like survival, sixth work, like panhandling, or idling, or solicitation, the things that are criminalized by, you know, cities and counties across our states. And so just the attacks that have been on trans youth, we don’t talk about like, what it is outside of, like, what their experiences are outside of sports, right for the girls and the young trans girls who love to do makeup and hair, but still experience this kind of push out in isolation from cis women and other sis young girls. And those communities. I mean, there’s just so many things, right, that we experienced, but I think the most important thing is to acknowledge that we also hold and embody and experience so much joy and resilience. And that I think has really transformed this kind of like movement that trans folks and renaissance that Black and trans folks have been experiencing over the last four to five years in media and also in advocacy and policy.


V Spehar  04:32

What are some of your biggest accomplishments of the last couple years?


Toni-Michelle Williams  04:35

Oh, my goodness.


V Spehar  04:36

We got to brag on you for a little bit.


Toni-Michelle Williams  04:41

I get all sweaty and clammy talking about so a few accomplishments. Okay, so I’ll start like 2019 Okay, because it’s actually been some amazing moments that have happened and also some very hard moments where I’ve survived them, and excited to be talking to you at the end of this season about it. But I started in like 2019. So I did not finish college. Back in 2013, I had studied abroad in the Czech Republic, and I got back and I was like, why am I in America?


V Spehar  05:22

Yeah, it was better in the Czech Republic, it was safer. I’m like very stunned by this.


Toni-Michelle Williams  05:28

You know, it’s not that it was safer, because I was like a triple minority, right? I was, yeah, Black, trans, non-binary, a woman, young American, all of the things. So it was really, really hard. But it grew a different layer of skin, right. And I found I didn’t have like my family and friends who had this idea of who I was or who I should be, I just had a place to start over. And that kind of like starting over that kind of like internal transformation supports, I think and regenerate safety in so many ways, you know? But yes, I did that I got back to the States. And I was like, why am I here, and I really kind of like fell into a deep depression. And I didn’t finish my last semester of college, but I went back in 2019. And I put by drawers, Eddie, and I went back to Virginia, and I finished school, I was home with a whole bunch of young people. And it was, it was very liberating. I learned a lot about myself and a lot about young people and 2022, or one at the time was 2019. But went back and make new friends. And now homecomings are Liddie. I know everybody from my day to day, I’ve just like yes, I’ve like built a new community. So I’m really, really proud of that.


V Spehar  06:52

I am in shock right now. And you are because you’re such a vibrant and lovely person. And then you say things like I went to the Czech Republic for college, which is a hard choice for just anybody in general. And you’re like, nope, did it? And then to go back to Virginia, which is not necessarily one of the most progressive states to finish your degree. Are you a person who isn’t afraid to pick the hardest path? Like is that what busting up these boulders is picking this hard path?


Toni-Michelle Williams  07:22

You know, I don’t necessarily think it’s about picking the path. I think it’s just about being present enough. Yeah, to know where you belong. And to trust where you are. I, you know, me picking Virginia picking Norfolk State was really about me wanting to get away from you know, hard family dynamics. And me wanting to have again, more space. And so I think for me, I do Lean into an awesome an Aries. So I love a good challenge. But I lean into what’s possible. For me. And I also lean into and think about what’s at stake. And so if I can take an opportunity, and I can just think about the possibilities. And you know, the only thing that’s at stake is just time, maybe I’m going to take more time somewhere. Yes, I love to travel and I love to have new experiences. And I think that when I choose the experience, or I choose the people to like support and invest in my leadership, all of the different opportunities come to me, that’s been my tea.


V Spehar  08:32

That is very inspirational to me, because I am a notorious coward. I’m afraid of literally everything. And so when I’m looking at stuff, this is why we’re friends now. Because when I’m looking at stuff, I’m like, oh my god, I’m so afraid. And that fear can be paralyzing. And you’re looking at stuff and going I see this as an opportunity. And so I want to ask you when you started snapco what was going through your mind at that point? Because that’s another thing that just feels so insurmountable. So difficult.


Toni-Michelle Williams  08:59

Yeah. So um, second big accomplishment was becoming the executive director of the solutions now punishment collaborative in 2020. I actually I did not create snapco. So snapco actually was created back in 2013. We are coming up on our 10 year anniversary. And at that time, the city of Atlanta was trying to pass legislation or an ordinance that would banish people charged with prostitution. Okay. And that was primarily Black trans women in the myth. I don’t know if you’ve ever been to Atlanta. Have you ever been to Atlanta and been to Midtown? Well, we got to get you down shawty. But, you know, it was started in response to that attempt from the city to pass this ordinance and there were people from the racial justice Action Center, social Bavaria, who’s a founder of Snapco. Miss Devi […] Black trans woman who has really been incredible in trans advocacy over the last 20 years, and a few other folks, but they created snapco. And I was hired as first generation staff in 2015. And I really was hired along with my partner and justice and my brother, Dean Steed, we were charged with leading a campaign called the pre arrest diversion initiative, bringing more like policing alternatives to the city, and then also charged to build some like leadership development opportunities for Black trans and queer folks across the city. So I spent my first five years at Snapco, building those programs. And social Bavaria, the director of the racial justice Action Center, wanted to retire, there were things about, you know, what she had created, you know, pouring into trans leadership, also pouring into like the leadership of Black incarcerated women of women on the rise that it was time for her to like, do the next thing, and also entrust our leadership. And so that is what we did. And so we sunset the racial justice Action Center, and then spun off. And so in this new iteration, I am a co-founder, along with social as well as Miss Maryland when, and currently the Executive Director. So it’s been really, really amazing. It’s been a scary and fun process. You know, I’ve learned a lot about project management and fundraising, and an HR, all of the things that executive director has to do, but to the heart and to the core. I’m a performance artist, I’m an organizer. And I love my people, I love entertaining my people, bringing joy to my people, and keeping my people safe. And so it’s been amazing to be able to be resourced to do that, and to bring so many people who believe in our mission, along with us.


V Spehar  12:17

Tell me a little bit about you say keeping people safe looking out for each other? What does that mean on the day to day?


Toni-Michelle Williams  12:24

Yeah, so I think one of the most amazing parts of our work, and our one of our premier programs is our taking care of our own fund, which is a grassroots fund that supports emergency bailouts, housing, and mutual aid for black trans and queer folks, and our families who needs support as well, in order for all of us to be together and be together well, right. We created this fun back in 2016. So those original founders of SNAP co were the creators of that fund, as well as myself and Dean Steed. And we’ve been keeping it going. And 2020, we had a flux of coins to come into our organization. We love that. But also knowing that it was really on the backs of folks like Ray sharp Brooks on the backs of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery. And on the backs of the organizers, right, and the leaders who were leading those movements and fights during the pandemic and the uprisings in the summer. Since 2016, we’ve been able to support 250 people and with our small team of just, you know, three to six Black trans folks and queer folks in our allies, supporting the work again, we’ve been able to bail, over 50 people out of jail, we’ve been able to house 100 folks and connect them to more resources, we’ve been able to just give, you know, Grant season monies to folks in support from Sweet surgeries. Um, so in this past year, really been able to support the trans youth that we have, we had three youth who were queer and trans. And we were able to house them for half of the year, start their gender affirming, you know, therapy sessions, laser hair treatments, and getting them together and on their way. So that has been really amazing. So that has been the day to day being in folks lives, supporting their, you know, material needs, their emotional needs, cultivating their sense of belonging with our membership programs, and, you know, advocating for them and teaching them and supporting them how to advocate for themselves. That is our work. And that is what we do day to day outside of you know, shutting down expressways and, you know, going toe to toe with police and city council.


V Spehar  14:50

I want to ask you about that too, because you know, I report on the news every day and every day I go through my comments section. And I talk a lot about bail reform and we talk a lot about harm reduction and the way that the incarceration system is so just wholly broken. And it just is. I mean, that’s just a fact. And I always get comments from people that are like, okay, the I’m down with mutual aid, I understand that. I’m down with housing people, I’m down with wraparound services, I’m even down with Makeovers, I’m down with whatever is going to make somebody feel confident enough to go out in the world. But what I’m not able to wrap my head around, is why we’re bailing criminals out of jail, and I’m like, okay, listen, because you’re, and I hear so much bias and so much fear in people’s voices, oftentimes, just the way that they’re saying, Why are you billing criminals out of jail? And I’m like, Okay, you’re already assuming that these people have committed an atrocity, which is oftentimes not true. You’re also assuming that we’re like, trying to put people what benefit would there be putting people who cause harm back into our own communities? So I wanted to know from you when folks say to you, you know, why are you bailing people out? What do you tell them?


Toni-Michelle Williams  15:56

Love this question, what is a crime? Who is a criminal? Oh, Jesus. So many people, but not all of us. Sometimes people are just trying to survive. Sometimes people are in unfortunate situations. So I’ll just kind of talk about what’s been happening in Atlanta. The Atlanta city Detention Center, which is known in Atlanta as the extra jail was created back in 1996. When the Olympics came to Atlanta, everybody remember that, right? Yes, I mean, and so that jail was created to kind of like sweep up like most jails are to sweep up communities around the Turner Field area in the downtown area of Atlanta. And what that jail held was about 1300 people who were arrested for petty crime and or non-violent offense offenses, and we want to be careful about non-violent versus violent offenses. But definitely want to say that we’re jaywalking, peeing on the sidewalk, traffic violations, right? People were losing their jobs, people were losing their whole lives by those kinds of offenses. Those folks don’t deserve to be in jail. Those folks don’t deserve to be in a cage. Those people deserve time and more of a process to be accountable, right in ways that doesn’t involve them being locked away, right and in horrible conditions. In 2019, former mayor of Atlanta, Keisha Lance Bottoms, did a few things. Number one, she paused and stopped and ended the relationship that the city jail had with ice, right to help create more of what we don’t really call anymore, but we caught it this time more of a sanctuary city, for folks who are immigrants and coming to Atlanta undocumented folks. And then also she signed legislation that would have put in place a design team to really reimagine what the jail could look like, right? If it wasn’t a jail, and to also close the jail, right to really create ways this task force to create ways that would empty out the jail over time, because what was happening was that there were $34 million a year a year being poured into that jail. So we’re talking $34 million for people who didn’t pay a ticket, right? $34 million to house a homeless person or folks or person who is experiencing homelessness, when they could be using some of those funds to be housed and to be resource and cared for. And so that was kind of like the need to like, reimagine. So I always encourage people to think about who they have in proximity to their lives, like who in your family went to jail, they really didn’t deserve to go to jail, figure out why, right? We know why the system was designed to cage Black and Brown folks and from keeping us from being a part, you know, of society, just like they do with trans people who are wrongfully incarcerated and also youth who are wrongfully incarcerated. And so we do want to challenge those ideas. We do want to be able to have the skill to reimagine more for our communities. We’re gonna be here for some more time, right? And so we can do something different.


V Spehar  19:43

You know, you’re talking so much about the black and trans experience in Atlanta and these communities that are built and I’m from New York, and I grew up in Connecticut, and the only thing I thought of my whole life is I’m going to be gay someday. So I have to move to New York City. That was the only place I thought gay people existed as a young child and I was like, that’s wrong. we go, that’s we’re going to be saved. But you have said that Atlanta is a legendary LGBTQ capitol that doesn’t get enough attention. Tell me about living in Atlanta as a queer person.


Toni-Michelle Williams  20:11

Darling, it’s amazing. To be Black, to be queer, to be trans. To be a woman, darling, and this generation in this lifetime in the South in Atlanta is liberating. Living in Atlanta, it’s like, you know, I’ll say the normal things, it’s kind of like living in a Wakanda of some sort of like, Black queer, rainbows and community and enjoy, um, there’s always something to do. And then it’s really like, so it’s so special, because you can go anywhere and be around everybody and everybody be okay. Yeah, yes, yes, I know that there’s a lot of talk about gun violence lately. There’s a lot of talk about like the sparking of like crime and, you know, outside of those kind of like the jargon around what to be afraid of, there’s so much more space of like creativity and joy, and like community building that happens across the city. And I think we do an injustice to our communities. And, again, what we’re building and have built when we don’t leave space for what’s actually been changing, and what we know to be possible. I’m sure New York is like that, too, right? I mean, people talk about crime and violence. But friends are Liddy.


V Spehar  21:42

I mean, Boston was built by the butch lesbians we all know that New York was off it was built by Black trans women and gay men. That’s like where it was at. Atlanta though. I had not heard of previously as like a really safe and joyful place for queer people. So I wanted to ask you even more about it because there’s so many folks are listening at home and they’re looking for community and they’re looking to change their mind about the national narratives that are put on certain big cities is like being good ones are not good ones, right? Is it a recent change in Atlanta? Is it who built it? Who made it? Why is it so good now?


Toni-Michelle Williams  22:14

Who built? Queer people, Black people built Atlanta. Black people will sustain Atlanta. Creatives have built Atlanta and I think about my favorite artists outcasts escape, you know, all of the 90s, you know, celebrities RuPaul, his first days was in the cities pumping through the city of Atlanta in Midtown, you know, our culture, our love for each other our passions for the things that we want to create and the things that we see and manifest. That is what has created and cultivated Atlanta, civil rights leaders, right? Queer, black, white ally, all of us, right? We have created the culture in which Atlanta is the basis for and the foundation for rights and justice and accountability.


V Spehar  23:26

And you have the facts to back it up to I was reading I know it’s like a 37 page report the deeper than visibility report about trans visibility skyrocketing in the past decade and how representation truly matters. Can you just let folks know some of the like top line stuff, I’m going to link in the show notes to the report so people can read it because I think it’s important for them to see it firsthand. But like, tell me about the deeper than visibility report.


Toni-Michelle Williams  23:50

Beautiful. So this project, as many projects that we do are near and dear to my heart. This project was birthed the summer of 2020 during the uprisings. We were on the ground. There’s a short documentary produced by Ryan horn and his brother and the Atlanta Journal Constitution about the night that the Windies caught a flame in Atlanta and the highway was shut down. I know so many people remember that night. It was actually right after Rashard Brooks was murdered in the Wendy’s parking lot by Atlanta police officer. I was out there that night. If you watch the documentary, you can check out the story and my story and contribution to keeping folks safe on the highway that night, but there was so many conversations about, you know, safety in Atlanta. There was also after a shark was murdered. There was also a young girl, Sequoia Turner, who was murdered by stray bullet and killed by a stray bullet during a protest that weekend. The police force was disbanding within themselves and going on strike. There was so many things happening in Atlanta, our police chief, the first LGBTQ and out open, police chief Erika shields had stepped down and resigned after that. And so the city was up in flames literally with Wendy’s. And we wanted to know what people really afraid of when we talked about defunding the police. We talked about reimagining our relationship and more community safety. What are we afraid of? What are people thinking? So we started talking to folks, we talked to over 600 people across Atlanta, Fulton County, Cobb County, the cap County, Clayton County, and we ask them those questions. Do they know what’s happening with police budgets? What do they recommend to happen with police budgets? What have your experience has been with police. And we found out some really, really important things that really, you know, helped create a narrative of alternative buildings, to policing in our city and how we should be shifting public safety, and not just with police reform, but with police abolition, and more resources, again, into the community so that they can now build after abolition, but rebuild what is more necessary and what they feel keeps them safe, right. And so that is what the report does, you’re able to see the survey results and what people were thinking some of the stories that they experienced with police, you’re able to also see a timeline of like reformist, and abolitionist efforts when it comes to police, a few scandals, a few people that we love, who’ve been forgotten about who’ve been harmed by police violence in Atlanta. And then you’re able to also see some policy recommendations, and a few ideas to help us move forward, like a new trap cultural zone, or zones that you know, support businesses and communities with more de-escalation tactics. Also a trans safety initiative that, again, allows trans folks to be in their dignity and to have a buddy of some sort, and then to also, you know, get their records expansion documents updated. And so you will see kind of this vision of safety for not just trans people, but black people, you know, I’m a Black trans woman in Atlanta, from Atlanta, and all of my people who I mean, at the intersection are important to me. So we wanted to create a document that really lays out our works to invite more people in.


V Spehar  27:50

I’m gonna tell you, it’s really helpful to me, and I’m gonna expose myself a little bit here, I sometimes hear defund the police. And I’m like, well, but who’s gonna, but then what are we going to do it, you know, and then you have to really research and learn. And the thing that I learned from this particular document is that, at the end of this, we’re trying to provide safety to communities, right. So one way that it had been done historically was with policing, your friendly neighborhood policeman who’s going to protect you from any potential crime. But when that isn’t happening, because the police budget is so inflated, and the budget for things that prevent crime, like housing, people, like getting people the mental health care that they need, making sure that domestic violence isn’t occurring, making sure people aren’t in desperate circumstances that forced them to commit crimes just to survive. If we sort of invested in those things, we would have safety and we wouldn’t have crime, and we wouldn’t have to rely on this really aggressive form of safety. That turns out, it’s not that safe, it is not that safe. You know, we’ve seen that over the last couple years. And with the rise in social media, the way that the citizen journalist can truly document in real time, what an interaction with certain police forces is like, and that does not represent safety. That’s not everyone everywhere. And so what I loved about this document was it reminds people that the point here is for the best of the community. The point here is to lift people up to make them feel included. It’s not to say like, you know, let’s get rid of everything that exists. And everybody did a bad job. And you’re all you know, a problem. It’s like, shit ain’t working. Here are some ideas for how it could work. Maybe we ought to give them a try in collaboration, and I just absolutely love that work that you do. Because like you said, you’re sitting at this intersection of being Black of being trans of being a woman of being in the South. I mean, I do the news every day, I could do just news on the crimes that are perpetrated upon your community. And it would never get to the end, and it’s like, who is protecting you? And your answer is ourselves. And now you’ve come forward with some really good action steps for people. You even partnered with the scariest app and all of the App Store, the citizen app, which scares me, every day I get I had the citizen app, I had to get it off my phone, they report to many things on that. And I live in like, nowhere. Now, I live in Rochester, but like, you know, they’d be dinging me all the time with stuff. But tell me about the partnership with the citizen app even I mean, you guys are freaking everywhere.


Toni-Michelle Williams  30:23

We are. Thank you, we’ve been working really hard. And I’m really proud of our team. It’s been a journey, building a team in the last three years, it hasn’t been easy, especially with the pandemic. But the folks that I found and that we found, they love us, we love them. And they pour so much into everybody that comes in into our base, the citizen app, my God. So this partnership, it came out of the sky, came out of the blue, I was introduced to a representative from Citizen and they share with us the work with other communities around offering just free premium subscriptions to the app, again, with this kind of initial thought that if folks have access to something else, right, that they could generate a little more safety for themselves, and like within their communities. And that is something that we believe in, we know that there have been apps like neighbor and things that have been, you know, harmful to Black and LGBTQ communities. But we’ve done research with citizen and that really have a clear understanding of like, what is allowed and what is not allowed on their platforms, and that it is overwhelming to receive all of the information. But I think for us, the main thing is that we want trans people, particularly trans women, to have someone else with them, who is not police. Because at the end of the day, I think of an example, you know, as a trans woman, I hate walking through groups of men, okay, it is my worst fear that someone would see, to see me as trans and respond violently to that. And to know that, you know, a lot of times I don’t feel comfortable calling a friend to let him knows, like, Girl, they probably try to hear me being scared about it. But to know that I have an app that I can just tap someone’s with me within three seconds to just walk with me and wait with me by the bus, walk with me and went through the parking lot until I get to the store. If I need support, they can escalate for me to call the police if I needed that, or to contact someone for me, if I needed that. We want that for our people. And we want them to have that resource. And so it isn’t even what it did.


V Spehar  33:01

Well, now I’m learning to today, right? So now I’m gonna pull back on my phone. Yes. Now calling out, I wouldn’t do that I would absolutely love to do that. I think that sounds like such a great way to like help folks and be a part of the community and like just generally be looking out for each other as simple as that simple, incredible idea.


Toni-Michelle Williams  33:17

As simple as that. And so they’ve been great. They’ve been great with us, and we’re excited for what’s to come.


V Spehar  33:22

That is fantastic. And we get a lot of questions from people who do want to know how to help. And we’ve now taught people film The police film where you are, if you don’t feel safe, click into the citizen app, ask for help. Don’t assume that things are going to be okay. Tell folks at home. What is the power in de-escalation and maybe add, what does that look like? You know, like, how can they take control of a situation if it starts to get out of hand?


Toni-Michelle Williams  33:52

The power of the escalation is simply being able to live through a moment. It’s as simple as that you’re able to live and breathe through a moment. You know, being able to be dropped into your own body, being able to understand spiritually and wholly, the choices and agency that you have, being able to trust, you know, in the ways that it matters, that people have your back, and that you have what you need as well. And also to trust that something else is possible on the other side of it. We already know like what escalating things would do right folks get kill folks get harmed or hurt. Folks get arrested and taken away from families. People get fired. People are stuck in force with shame and all of the things that hold us back from each other. And so when I think about de-escalation and the power of de-escalation, it’s about interconnected It’s just about presence and openness for possibility and change. And we need that we are yearning for that. Some of my favorite teachers like printers, him feel, and mentors and, and sisters like Adrian Marie Brown, you know that they are, you know, teachers have these skills and this like process of embodiment, and it’s so am I. And so I think there’s just so much power inside of it, for the sake of our communities, our families and our futures as black people, as people who love black people who want to support trans people, I think that there’s so much more possible, when we are all have the tactics and the skill to de-escalate to come to ground, so that we transform a moment to be better connected to each other.


V Spehar  35:54

Yeah. I love what you said it gives you the power to live through that moment. Yeah, sometimes that’s exactly where we are. You can’t make a big change. But you can make a tiny adjustment. You can hold your own power, and you can get through that moment. And then you can make a different decision. It doesn’t have to be all the decisions all up front in the in the first place. What is your vision for Black trans liberation in the new year?


Toni-Michelle Williams  36:16

Oh, in the new year, honey.


V Spehar  36:18

What’s 2023 gonna bring?


Toni-Michelle Williams  36:21

Baby I hope it brings people new bodies and the bodies that they desire and see for themselves. I also see wins, wins on state and federal levels for trans and LGBTQ and Black equality and justice and restoration. I think that that is on the version on the horizon. I see more folks understanding what safety is and what is possible for them. It’s our 10 year anniversary. Okay, so I see us having a good old time being gay at a gala. In the ballroom darling. Supporting and investing more in trans lives and leadership across Atlanta. And into snapco, I see us growing, you know, in our team and in our membership base. And yeah, we have some exciting things coming. We’re looking to purchase a building to house our work. And so we’ll be launching a capital campaign actually, we’ve been working with artists across the city, music artists who are working on an album for our movement. And so that is coming sight music, joy, new bodies, new blues, new love, new connections, new wins and victories. I see all of those things happening for our community.


V Spehar  37:58

I love that and I will I will be following and I will be looking forward to that as well. We’ll link in the show notes to your organization so that folks can find you I have had such a good time chatting with you. I’m so grateful that we had this time, you were just an endless sense of joy and inspiration. I’m so grateful that you exist in this world.


Toni-Michelle Williams  38:15

Thank you for having me. Thank you for having the snapco team. Thank you for sharing our work and yeah, you’re invited AV and all of your people are invited to please click and enjoy our work and join our work and best in our work. We need you to win. So thank you all so much for having us.


V Spehar  38:35

I truly can’t wait for you to teach me a death drop. I think that’ll be just the cherry on our friendship.


Toni-Michelle Williams  38:40

I am not a vote or honey. I’m not I’m not that kind of performer


V Spehar  38:45

show up to the ballroom without us a move. We’re gonna have to do something.


Toni-Michelle Williams  38:49

Okay, so this gala, you’re gonna be able to do all the things that you know how to do. And you’re gonna be able to observe.


V Spehar  38:56

Running Man, the step touch I got, I got standard white people moves. Okay, I’ve got I’ve got snapped touch. That’s it. That’s good. Okay, there we go.


Toni-Michelle Williams  39:07

Rock with it.


V Spehar  39:08

I don’t know about the rock with it. But I will leave with it. Oh, we got to work our way up.


Toni-Michelle Williams  39:12

You have to come so that we can teach and learn and be joyful together.


V Spehar  39:25

Wow, what an incredible human and I don’t know about you guys, but my energy is at like a 10. Right now, Tony. Michelle just has this way of swirling you up into her world and making you a part of the joy that she experiences and even helping you find your own joy. And I hope you did find some joy here today. Thank you to the Marguerite Casey Foundation for making this conversation possible. I hope you join us Tuesday for more of the headlines you might have missed and an interview with Melissa urban, the founder of the hole 30 and the author of the book of boundaries, we’re gonna learn a whole new way to be lucky and healthy and all the good things Is this Tuesday? I will see you then.  And if you can’t wait till then, then leave me a voicemail. Follow me at @underthedesknews on TikTok, Instagram and YouTube, and guess what pals, there’s more be interesting with Lemonada Premium subscribers get exclusive access to bonus content, like Lizz Winstead telling us what you watches on TikTok and what gets you excited about news, comedy and politics. Subscribe now in Apple podcasts.

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