Age: 34, Council Member
45th Council District, Brooklyn, N.Y.
Jumaane Williams, a first-generation Brooklynite who represents the more than 150,000 residents of the borough’s 45th District on the New York City Council, once wanted to be an actor. A graduate of Brooklyn College with a bachelor’s degree in political science and film and a master’s in urban policy and administration, he says his passion for acting helped him to become a visionary leader. “It is my artistic capabilities that allow me to visualize projects and see them through completion,” he says.
The son of Grenadian immigrants, Williams was active in campus politics. He was president of the graduate student body, organized campaigns against tuition hikes, designed education programs for middle- and high-school students, and organized workshops on multicultural awareness. He took the same energy to his community, fighting for affordable housing and tenants’ rights as housing director for Flatbush Development Corp. and executive director of NYS Tenants & Neighbors Organization, respectively. “I always knew that I wanted to effect change, especially when it came to equality and distribution of resources,” he says.
Williams suffers from Tourette’s syndrome, which causes him involuntary shoulder jerks and vocal tics. Acting in high school and college helped him to become comfortable when speaking in public. “I consider Tourette’s syndrome one of life’s idiosyncrasies that we all have to deal with at some time or another. Mine simply manifested visibly,” he says. “It is something that I manage and gives me the motivation and a stronger voice to advocate for the community.”
It has never stopped him. He is vice president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Brooklyn Chapter, and a member of the Caribbean International Students’ Alumni Association of Brooklyn College and Brooklyn Tech Alumni Association.
Favorite comedian: Dave Chappelle
What artist would you go on tour with: De La Soul
Countries visited: Grenada, Spain
Favorite sports team: NY Knicks
Favorite singer: Tupac Shakur
Favorite book: The Color of Water by James McBride