.Opinion: Paying Tribute to Don Williams’ Vision and Activism


It was the 30th anniversary of Don WilliamsAfrican American Theater Arts Troupe, and their new production that is debuting online, that spurred the cover profile of the group and its founder this week. But this story is timely for so many other reasons, and the one I thought most about as I read Anna Maria Camardo’s piece was how it fits into Black activists’ struggle to force a new reckoning with issues of racial justice and representation in this country via the Black Lives Matter movement. I’ve respected Williams’ work for a long time—AATAT started while I was at UCSC, and we wrote about it at City on a Hill while I was there (Camardo is also an alum of the paper, by the way), as well as at the local papers I worked at after that. But I never realized until reading this story how hard Williams had to fight even for this group to exist, that it was student protests that saved the program in the early 2000s, and that those protests were directly responsible for the establishment of UCSC’s Cultural Arts and Diversity Resource Center. The fact that three decades in, AATAT is still the only group in the whole UC system dedicated to Black theater really punctuates what a visionary and an arts activist Williams is.

But again, there’s so much to this story, and a lot of it has to do with the love and respect that has built up around Williams over the years. If you were ever involved with AATAT, you definitely recognized the quote on the cover this week as his favorite saying. Here’s to many more years of AATAT, and thanks to UCSC’s Susan Watrous for all her help with getting this story onto our cover this week.



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“I think it was the ability of the theater to communicate ideas and extol virtues that drew me to it. And also, I was, and remain, fascinated by the idea of an audience as a community of people who gather willingly to bear witness.”

-August Wilson


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