R.I.P. Michael K. Williams | Transcendence From The Screen To The Street

Image Credit: Michael K. Williams Instagram

There are souls on this planet whose very presence exudes honesty—people who, by their sheer face, tell an entire tale of triumph over enormous challenges.

Above all, Michael K. Williams was one such soul.

The thespian left this world to join the ancestors yesterday, September 6th, 2021, and the collective heart of the culture broke.

Concrete Rose

Williams burst into our collective consciousness in the most contradictory of ways. His portrayal of Omar Little in HBO’s cult classic crime series The Wire was nothing short of legendary.

The Brooklyn-born actor gave the world a glimpse into the world of a stickup kid savant. The Little character was Black and gay in Baltimore, robbing the most prolific drug dealing organizations with impunity.

Williams’s rendition was electrifying, and it captivated the imagination while challenging what is acceptable in the culture. Never before had Black masculinity been portrayed in such a way while enveloping the broken spirit of a man trying to survive while living his truth.

But the essence of that character was Williams.

In addition to struggling with addiction, Williams was at odds with his perception of himself versus how the world received him. He once said that playing the character of Omar “mixed with my identity crisis and my addiction — and it was not a good mix. I had to stop trying to be Omar and just be Mike.”

However, the world thought it saw Mike. We blanketed him with praise as he brought the fictionally historic character of Chalky White alive in HBO’s Boardwalk Empire. His brilliance provided breath for a country boy turned Atlantic City Godfather during Prohibition that contended with his racist white underworld counterparts.

In Brooklyn’s Finest, he challenged Don Cheadle’s undercover cop character through his gritty realism. Concurrently, Williams exuded authenticity through his tonality; he brought you face-to-face with a boogeyman every time.

A Love Supreme

Ironically, he made you fall in love with the bad guy. His penchant for humanizing characters that in real life would be considered ghetto garden variety in a mainstream newsroom is unparalleled.

Equally important, Williams’s afro-futurism jaunt as the reluctant father in Lovecraft Country showcased his fearlessness. Familiar themes such as living your sexual preference truth were always a hallmark of Williams’ acting range.

Moreover, Williams always gave a face to the faceless, like those fathers hiding in plain sight while trying to raise a male child with limited tools.

No one captured the marginalized like Michael K. Williams. He confronted Black America’s dark secrets and made them the centerpiece of his art. Now generations of actors and those who have felt underrepresented can look back at his catalog of work.

Specifically, Williams’ work will stand as a primer to understand vulnerability by proxy.

From his revelations of addiction and redemption to his sheer fearlessness as an unapologetic dancer, Michael K. Williams was light.

However, he broke all the rules on purpose and created a legacy despite the odds. He filled a void in cinema, and some might even declare that he started his category.

Typecast: broken savant. Williams owned that energy in any script. However, he also educated those uninitiated to the intelligence that belied criminality.

Michael K. Williams is now an ancestor. Furthermore, let the culture pour libation for one who gave so much to it.

Rhett Butler is a Boxing Writer Association of America Journalist, Play-By-Play Commentator, Combat Sports Insider, and Former Mixed Martial Arts and Boxing Promoter. The New York City native honed his skills at various news outlets including but not limited to: TIME Magazine, Money Magazine, CNN's Wolf Blitzer Reports, and more. Rhett hosts the PRITTY Left Hook podcast, a polarizing combat sports insider's take featuring the world's biggest names.