Dr. Angela Williamson, PhD On Facilitating Authentic Conversations
Have you ever wanted to share your life experiences and the lessons you learned from them to help people? Do you desire to tell your story or the story of others? You're in the right place! Today's guest is a master of facilitating authentic conversations. After listening to stories from her cousin, Rosa Parks, today's guest felt called to share those stories with the world. Join Host Ellie Shefi as she chats with #1 international best-selling author, Emmy-nominated filmmaker, and multiple Telly award winner, Dr. Angela Williamson, about the importance of sharing your story, using your life to impact others, and building a legacy.
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Dr. Angela Williamson, PhD On Facilitating Authentic Conversations
Today's guest is a #1 international best-selling author, an Emmy- nominated filmmaker, a multiple Telly Awards recipient, and a former producer and copywriter for major broadcast TV and cable news networks. Her Emmy-nominated documentary, My Life with Rosie, is about the activism of her cousin, Rosa Parks. It has won numerous best documentary titles at film festivals across the country.
Her international best-selling companion book, My Life With Rosie: A Bond Between Cousins, has been named the "Best Children's Book About Black History." She has released her second documentary, Authentic Conversations: Deep Talk with the Masters, featuring Jack Canfield, Patty Aubery, and Kate Butler. She is also the host of the weekly interview show, Everybody with Angela Williamson, which discusses diversity within education, the arts, and people.
She’s a dedicated philanthropist, proudly carrying on her cousin's legacy. She harnesses the power of her 25 years of experience in education and media for social good through her involvement in projects and organizations that focus on improving the communities they serve. Please welcome, Dr. Angela Williamson.
Welcome, Dr. Williamson. It is so great to have you here with us.
It is such an honor, and thank you so much for that beautiful introduction. I am looking forward to our authentic conversation.
Those are some pretty big family shoes to fill. How has being a relative of Rosa Parks changed your life?
At first, when I saw her, I was in awe. If you see pictures of me with her, my face was just like, “Wow.” This is a woman in my history books that I learned about in elementary school, and I'm sitting right next to her. You don't realize the things that sometimes our history books try to educate us about, but they can't give us everything. I was that person. I didn't realize that what I thought I knew about Rosa Parks was just the tip of the iceberg of everything that this woman had done up until the point that I met her and what her legacy continues to do now.
We hear her name connected to that historical moment and often forget that there's a lifetime before and a lifetime after. A lifetime of experiences, hopes, dreams and fears. A lifetime of wanting to make a difference or fighting the injustice. I can only imagine the authentic conversations that unfolded between you as she shared her story with you.
This shows the true legacy of Rosa Parks. Her legacy started with Aunt Carolyn. When the stories started coming to me, I realized that my history books missed something. This is a woman that poured into so many young people, but that connection that she had with Aunt Carolyn is what would start me to understand that there's more that needs to be written and told about Rosa Parks. It would take me a long time to do that, but the stories started in 1998 and continued for at least 17 years before I decided that I needed to share this story with the world.
It was sharing over dinners, hearing Aunt Carolyn tell me these stories. Little stories started to come out over the years, but it escalated to something bigger.
March of 2015 was a sad day. It was a sad moment in the Williamson family because my father-in-law, who was the patriarch, the older brother, passed away. When he passed away, everyone had to come to California to say goodbye to our patriarch. In doing that, Aunt Carolyn and Aunt Alice stayed with me. At that point, 17 years later, I was at a time in my life where I was truly listening to these stories.
It sounds like everyone coming together in California was the impetus that launched the documentary.
You are so right about that. When my father-in-law passed away in March 2015, it was a dark time for the Williamson family. We knew at that point that we had lost an important part of our family. With that, we all came together because the aunts had to fly out here to California from Detroit and Atlanta, where they lived.
Spending that time with Aunt Carolyn started to get me to realize that these little bits of stories that I had heard over the years, there needs to be something done with them. I knew for me, it changed my outlook. I already respected Rosa Parks, but I felt her struggle through her entire journey to fight for human rights and civil rights, and to fight against injustice.
I realized that it's my responsibility as a mother to capture this legacy. And then the educator in me came out and said, “Everybody in education should know this,” educators especially.
At the time, I was an adjunct professor. I knew that I needed research and I thought, “This is the time that I can do this research and do the research I want. I don't have to get permission through a university because I'm part-time. I can do all of these things in one documentary. I can hit the education side, and I can hit the professional side by strengthening who I am as an educator.” On top of that, as a mom, I can capture this legacy. Last but not least, I may be able to give a little bit part to the world and let them know what a dynamic person Rosa Parks was.
I love when the pieces come together and you are able then to step fully into a new level. This ability to marry the educator, filmmaker, family member, mother, and the person who also had that fire in her belly for social change and for spotlighting injustice and human rights that you mentioned. What an incredible opportunity to bring it all together.
Rosa Parks in my mind was the original person who was putting out authentic conversations to get people involved to say, “It doesn't matter what your skin color is, your gender, sexual orientation or religious background. We all deserve to be treated with respect.” She touched so many lives because she kept that mission in her heart. Wherever she went, she poured that out into the young people.
Is her service, dedication, and commitment to young people the reason why you originally wanted My Life With Rosie to go straight to school?
It was, and I thought this would be perfect. At the time, I was thinking of higher education because that's where I was working in, but then even high school. I was thinking maybe secondary education and then higher education, and they come to learn more not only about the Civil Rights Movement, but they can learn about what it takes to have a lifelong dedication to social justice, which was who Rosa Parks was.
She didn't all of a sudden have a seat one day. People always say, “It was planned.” It was not. They think it was planned because people knew she was fighting for this before December 1st, 1955, and then she fought well after. In fact, when she got to Detroit, she initially thought that she was leaving it behind. I have heard that she said, “The struggle continues.” She never walked away from it.
That's what I wanted people and students to get, and not just the students, but the educators as well - to have those conversations. The first documentary, people have yet to see because it was for education. At the end of each segment, it has a stop, think, and act section. It has thought-provoking questions so the instructors, professors, or teachers could stop right there, ask that question, and they could have those conversations.
That was the first version of the documentary, but that's not the documentary that ended up on the Film Festival Circuit. That’s because when I was done, the editor, the original composer, and Dr. Jeanne Theoharis, who I based a lot of the knowledge for this documentary on her book, The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks said, “This would go to the Film Festival Circuit, but if you are going to do that, there's no way that the film festival directors will stop the film and have these conversations.” I was like, “What do I need to do?” She said, “You need to take that one portion out and then see about trying your hand at film festivals and see what happens.”
What made you say 'yes' to that?
I was at a point in my life where I realized that if someone is taking the time to give you advice, and it's good advice, you need to be humble and listen.
That's one thing that I learned about Rosa Parks. What I realized was this woman is so humble. There's a humility that always surrounds Rosa Parks. I was able to see that when I was interviewing Aunt Carolyn, her friends, and Dr. Theoharis. I realized that if I wanted more people to learn about the story, I needed to be humble as well. That humility allowed me to listen to this advice. That was the best advice I had ever been given up until this point because taking that advice has opened up every door - even me talking to you now.
We started the conversation by me saying that those are some pretty big shoes to fill. It seems that you are doing that quite gracefully and powerfully.
Taking that one step further, let's imagine you've come to the end of your life best lived. You've created and facilitated countless authentic conversations. Your books have changed generations of lives. Your documentaries have rewritten the history books. What do you want them to say about you?
That Dr. Angela Sadler Williamson lived the best life stirring the pot of all of these authentic conversations. If I've been able to change just one life, then my life has been completed.
What's next for you?
I wish I could say, “I'm going to be relaxing on a private island somewhere,” but I'm not there yet. There’s so much to do here and I'm so excited about the new documentary. My summer will be spent going back into the studio with the children's book. Ellen Harper has graciously agreed to record a song and it's called Back of The Bus. Harry Belafonte originally recorded that. It was used in the Civil Rights Movement. She's going to record that song for this children's book. We are doing a collaboration there. We are still in the pre-production phases of it, but I know we are going into the studio. I am so honored to have a person like Ellen Harper doing that.
Also, in the summer as well, one of the things that I wanted to do is I have always been a fan of Guideposts Magazine. Now that I have this nonprofit, I will start production with my cousin who's a wonderful creative director, and we will be launching the Authentic Conversations Magazine. We will start laying that out in the summer as well. There are a lot of different pieces going on with this new nonprofit. I hope that in everything that I'm doing, at least with my one little life, I'm able to make a positive difference in so many other people's lives.
You already are, and I have no doubt that you will continue to do so. I know that people are going to want to be there for live screenings. How can they find out more? Do you have a website or somewhere where they can go and register their interest?
Everything is through my website. There is a promo for Authentic Conversations: Deep Talk with the Masters. All the events are listed on that website as well. We are still finalizing all the details for the premiers on the East Coast and West Coast. At the very bottom, they can contact me and be part of my email list. I will email them the information once everything is finalized.
You also mentioned possibly needing some help to get the message out there and to get this documentary out on a global scale. If somebody wants to partner with you or help you with that, should they also go to your website?
Absolutely. There's a way that you can financially support the film. There is a GoFundMe there to raise funds to help pay all the people that have been so wonderful to me. They are charging me, but they are waiting for me to get what I need to pay them.
After the East Coast and West Coast premiere, hosting or attending live screenings is another way to support the film as well. If there is someone out there who knows a theater to host the live screening, please let me know! I'm looking for those as well. That's another way to support this documentary. Not only to get the message out but to support the wonderful people that are sharing their talents with me so that I can get this out there.
That’s when you know that your message touches people - when normally, they charge thousands of dollars to do certain work, but they put that on hold for you or give you a discount because they know it's important to get this documentary out there, especially now. I read an article by the Gallup poll that said that emotionally, we are not at the same levels that we were at before the pandemic.
People want inspiration. They want inspirational interviews just like what Jack, Katie, and Patty give. Most importantly, they need inspiration so they can move forward. I think a lot of people right now feel it's so hard to move forward. That's why I knew I needed to do one documentary with all three of them together because they are so impactful that you have no other choice after watching this documentary but to move forward.
People can contribute financially. They can contribute by reaching out to host a live screening in their town. They can reach out to you to find out the details about the East Coast premiere or the West Coast premiere. They can purchase tickets to attend or to help you promote. They can help you spread the word.
This is such important content that you are creating, and the fact that you are not only creating this powerful content, but coupling it with the ability to take action, to your point, that's resonant right now.
After two years of the pandemic and all the things that have happened over the last few years and all the things that are happening in our world, people need inspiration. They also need to know how they can act. They need those tools and resources. I thank you for listening to the whisper within your soul. I thank you for stepping up and heeding that call for My Life With Rosie, for the children's books, for the authentic conversations that you are facilitating, and for the nonprofit that you have founded to continue the work that you are doing.
You've shared your website, but how else can people connect with you? How can they support you and find out more about your upcoming projects and your services?
I am all over social media. You can get to a lot of those through the website. If you want to follow individual projects, head to Facebook. I love using Facebook for my pages. Authentic Conversations: Deep Talk with the Masters has its own Facebook page, and so do My Life with Rosie, the documentary, and My Life with Rosie: A Bond Between Cousins.
I released this book during a pandemic, and I mentioned earlier that I had my first in-person book signing. I read this book on the Facebook page for My Life with Rosie: A Bond Between Cousins. If there is a teacher out there or a parent that wants their child to have a little bit of a storytime, you can find that on that page too.
My show in Los Angeles on KLCS is Everybody with Angela Williamson.
You can follow me on all of those pages. I do keep it up to date. I believe within the few next months, I will have a season premiere for season three of Everybody with Angela Williamson. The first interview with that season is Jack Canfield.
As we sign off, any parting words, you would like to share with the audience?
I'm so honored to be part of this space with you and with your audience. When I'm able to be in spaces like this, it uplifts me and it gives me the motivation to continue to move forward. I am deeply honored and thankful to be part of this space with you.
Thank you for all that you are doing in the world. Thank you for how you are showing up. Thank you for how you are keeping history alive. Thank you for how you are changing history and impacting generations to come. It has been an honor and a privilege. I cannot wait to see the live in-person premiere. Count me in. I will be there with bells on. I know it is going to be phenomenal. Thank you so much for spending this time with us.
Until next time.
- Important Links
My Life with Rosie - Facebook
My Life with Rosie: A Bond Between Cousins - Facebook
About Dr. Angela Williamson
Dr. Angela Williamson, PhD is a #1 international best-selling author, Emmy-nominated filmmaker, multiple Telly awards recipient, and former producer and copywriter for major broadcast TV and cable news networks. Her Emmy-nominated documentary My Life with Rosie, is about the activism of her cousin Rosa Parks. It has won numerous “Best Documentary” titles at film festivals across the country.
Her international best-selling companion book, My Life with Rosie: A Bond Between Cousins has been named “Best Children’s Book about Black History.” She recently released her second documentary, Authentic Conversations: Deep Talk with the Masters featuring Jack Canfield, Patty Aubery, and Kate Butler.
She is also the host of weekly interview show Everybody with Angela Williamson, which discusses diversity within education, the arts, and people. A dedicated philanthropist proudly carrying on her cousin’s legacy, she harnesses the power of her 25+ years of experience in education and media for social good through her involvement in projects and organizations that focus on improving the communities they serve.