Sherri Williams studies social media, social television and how people of color use and are represented on social media and how people of color and marginalized people are represented in mass media including traditional broadcast news and reality television. Her interest in diverse social media engagement extends to the ways in which black activists, particularly black feminists, use social media as a social justice tool. Williams delivers her black girl magic through appearances such as on CNN to discuss social media images of Rachel Jeantel after Jeantel testified in the George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin murder trial. Williams was also interviewed by USA Today for her social media expertise.
Acknowledging the many facets of our identity and our close relationships not only helps to build self-confidence but also it helps to identify our strong support systems that may otherwise go unnoticed. In what ways would you consider yourself to be a multi-dimensional woman and how would you say your dimensions evolved over time?
I’m multidimensional because I have a lot of interests and talents. I’ve evolved a lot over time really because I had to because different stages in life call for evolution. But I am also a naturally curious person which is why journalism was a good career for me to explore. Being a journalist really helped me become a good listener. I’ve always been a talker but being a journalist helped me learn to observe and pay attention to the words that people say and the words they don’t say – the words that provoke emotion and thought. I also learned to listen to myself, really listen and do things that are best for me regardless of how painful they may be.
You have been to the White House, we’ve seen you on CNN and you’ve been invited to contribute to many high profile projects. Amongst spaces where you may have been the only double minority speaking about issues within the Black community how do you manage to remain confident and validated in conforming spaces?
What would you say is the overwhelming factor that has contributed to your success thus far? And what advice would you have for women who are inspired by your career?
When life dealt me a body blow I didn’t always know where I was going or how I was going to get there but I didn’t stop, really because I didn’t have a choice. Also, I’ve always had goals, ambitions and plans that I wanted to execute. I think that younger women should try to do the same. Be strategic life and try not to stop and don’t become complacent where you are. Every woman should be open to new ventures and be prepared for them. Younger women should also stay connected to people who are supportive and make sure to reciprocate that support. Most importantly, be kind. Treat the presidents of corporations the same way you would custodians. Our lives and careers have highs and lows. Treat everyone with dignity so you will be treated well when you are down.
What suggestions do you have for women who wish to combat the negative images and perceptions of women of color on social media?
Unplug and armor up. I love social media and I really believe that it has democratized the way people communicate. But social networks can be ugly spaces for black women and other women of color. Even though I study social media I take mini exiles from social media myself. While off social media black women can read books by us that are about us. Consume art, literature, music and films that reflect uplifting images of black women. Every time I go to a different country or city I try to find artwork that reflects black women of that region. Social media is where ugly and hurtful stories about black women are sometimes told. Turn off social media sometimes and tune into other forms of storytelling that show us more authentic stories of who black women are and use those stories as armor against the ugly ones.
If we were to set the table, what would you bring to dinner?
Now as a post-doctoral fellow Sherri Williams is representing hard at Wake Forest University Williams teaching classes about media diversity, social activism and rhetoric and intersectional multimedia storytelling. She is particularly passionate about teaching students journalism, media literacy and storytelling skills to help them become better storytellers to help promote equity and democracy in the United States. Welcome to the table Sherri!
Written By: Ayondela McDole