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Rising Stars: Meet Ken Williams

Today we’d like to introduce you to Ken Williams.

Alright, so thank you so much for sharing your story and insight with our readers. To kick things off, can you tell us a bit about how you got started?
My life experience as a Black male raised in Houston, Texas has allowed me to become aware of the role I was destined to play in breaking down systemic barriers, fostering more opportunities, and providing additional resources for individuals who look like me. My life has been rooted in education, civic engagement, and social justice which have contributed to my success. However, I’ve always asked: Why? Why me? Why not my best friend, Kristy, who at the age of 14 attended an alternative school after being pushed out of a magnet school? The key difference between Kristy’s and my story is an environment with resources and opportunities.

These experiences at an early age allowed me to come to the realization that an environment enriched with resources and opportunities aids in determining the success of an individual and how city and local government plays a critical role in. While he was placed in an alternative school— ironically named Contemporary Learning Center—with other black and brown children who were being treated like prisoners, I was in AP courses, flying to D.C. with Junior Statesmen of America, in experiential learning programs with a diverse group of teens, and being presented an award by the Mayor of Houston. These experiences at an early age allowed me to come to the realization that an education enriched with resources and opportunities aids in determining the success of an individual.

For the last 12 years, I’ve focused my career on strengthening our society through government relations and nonprofit administration. As the Coordinator of Organizing Strategy at Leadership for Educational Equity, I managed a team that used data to foster community engagement through digital organizing initiatives and strategies that led to three educational policy reforms surrounding school discipline and school funding in Chicago, Louisiana, and New York. As the Government Relations Manager at Service Employees International Union (SEIU), I oversaw organizational management, such as human resources, financial management, and strategic planning. In April 2021 I returned to Houston as the FUSE Executive Fellow working in the Mayor’s Office of Complete Communities. I am charged with creating an equitable jobs plan to ensure Black and Brown Houstonians have access to quality jobs and economic opportunity.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
Nothing worth having is ever easy. I have experienced racism, homophobia, and being laid off. All of which has made me to understand my strengths and utilize obstacles as stepping stones to manifest the best version of myself.

Thanks – so what else should our readers know about your work and what you’re currently focused on?
I am experienced in economic development, legislative research, and civic engagement. Building strong, authentic partnerships and relationships has been a cornerstone of Ken’s career, and his approach to providing technical assistance incorporates respect, trust, and a shared vision for success. He has developed strategic partnership plans within the progressive movement and facilitated learning dialogues that foster an inclusive culture. Most recently, I have advised Houston Mayor’s Office of Complete Community on equitable workforce development initiatives ensuring Black and Brown Houstonians access to the green economy.

I advocate for greater equity with an analytical eye, a strategic mind, and a collaborative spirit. My lifelong commitment to ensuring equity and fighting for social justice has spanned the last decade, inspiring me to work with mission-driven organizations seeking to maximize their impact by investing in the wellbeing of their greatest resource: people. I am a first- generation college graduate of the University of Texas at Austin, earning a B.A in Government and African-American studies.

How do you think about luck?
I don’t believe in luck! I believe in the power of the Creator navigating my life design by purpose. Quieting the noise and unlocking the will of the Creator and purpose in my life has allowed me to bounce back from bad experiences and find gratitude in all of my good experiences.

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