While playing the role of Grand Marshal in Peekskill’s Juneteenth parade may not be as high profile as playing the role of hardened gangsters on HBO, actor Michael K. Williams did not hesitate to say yes when asked to participate in the local celebration.
His Peekskill friend Terry Williams asked him to be in the parade, so he said yes. "It is an opportunity to do something I have never done before,” Williams said.
Williams has visited Peekskill before, he thinks, and is excited to come back to join the . He joins the Honorable Lois Bronz, the first African-American woman to chair the Westchester County Board of Legislators, as Grand Marshal of the parade.
The “Chalky White” and “Omar” actor first learned the meaning of Juneteenth - a holiday that commemorates the abolition of slavery- when he was asked to Grand Marshal the parade. Now that he has learned about the holiday, he views it as an important time to honor African American history and ancestors.
“I think its important for all Americans to recognize this as part of American history. And for black Americans, I think we should never forget where we come from,” Williams said. “We should embrace our past and history. This is a way to honor our ancestors. We are here on a lot of people’s shoulders… on a lot of pain. People have died for us to be where we are and we have to remember that.”
Williams plays a homosexual “drug dealer-robbing stick up man” in the Baltimore hood in “The Wire” and a powerful unofficial mayor of the black community and bootlegger in 1920s Atlantic City in “Boardwalk Empire.” Although his characters are criminal, he hopes that viewers see beyond that to learn from their human qualities and personalities.
“With Chalky I would hope that people realize that we weren’t all shuckin’ and jiving’. Everyone wasn’t yes mam, no mam. We had power and clout. Also, I hope people walk away with some pride, and with knowledge about what had happened in the past as far as how present the Klan was in the north in those days…what our ancestors had to deal with.
With Omar, I hope that character stood for a lot. I would hope his character Omar breaks some of the lines of divide in my community between the gay and straight community because there is a lot of homophobia in the hood. I hope that Omar would bridge the gap a little. You gotta respect everyone for what they do.”
Williams, who is a Brooklyn native, started his career as a professional dancer in his 20s. After being discovered by the late Tupac Shakur, he took a shot at acting. Ever since, he has seen success playing roles in feature films and landing star roles in HBOs two series.
“It’s gonna be crazy,” was all Williams would say, with a laugh, about what happens in Season 3 of “Boardwalk Empire,” premiering this September.
In addition to filming Boardwalk, Williams is also on a promotional tour for his first executively produced film, “Snow on Tha Bluff,” the story of Atlanta robbery boy and crack dealer, who stole a camera during a dope deal and made a documentary about his life. The film will be available on Netflix and other distribution outlets on June 19.
For more details on the Juneteenth Celebration, click .