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Elandria Williams, Knoxville community activist and beloved church leader, dies at 41

Williams co-founded Knoxville's BLM movement and was a leader in the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church and an organizer with the Highlander Center.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — East Tennesseans are mourning the death of community and church leader Elandria Williams, who died this week at 41.

Williams helped countless people, fighting for social and racial justice within Knoxville to make the community a better place.

Williams worked with the Highlander Center before going on to an organization known as "The People's Hub" and was also very active at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church. They also served as the National Denominational leader and a co-moderator of the Unitarian Universalist Association, which is the highest volunteer position you can have.

Reverend Chris Buice said Williams was one of the church's "favorite daughters." Williams was very active with the local Black Lives Matter movement as one of the Knoxville chapter's co-founders, and was a fierce advocate for social justice. In a 2016 interview in 2016, Williams recalled witnessing injustices in Knoxville and wanting to do something about it.  

RELATED: Black Lives Matter Knoxville co-founder explains message

"I got involved around police brutality in the early 90s. The White students would be on the other side and they would be fine. The Black students would get rounded up, and the ones of us who lived up north or out west could go home. The ones who lived in East Knoxville would get put in jail," Williams said.

At the time, the focus was never toward individual police officers, but rather a larger system that disproportionately targets Black men and women as well as other minorities, according to Williams.

"For me, what it's about is how we change the system so that all of our lives are valued," Williams said.

Friends said Williams had a gigantic heart and left the world a better place.

It is with great sadness that the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church announces the untimely and unexpected...

Posted by Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church on Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Williams is survived by parents Elnora and Erven, and twin brother Frederick.