H. “Herukhuti” Sharif Williams, Ph.D, ME.d, [all pronouns] is a bodeme, (i.e., spiritual warrior, peacemaker, and cultural protector) in the Dagara (Burkina Faso and Ghana) tradition, High Priest of the Shrine of Sekhmet and Heruhet, a member of the organization of the contemporary movement of African people reclaiming the traditions of Kemet (i.e., ancient Egypt), and founder and chief erotics officer of the Center for Culture, Sexuality, and Spirituality. Professionally, he is a liberatory/decolonizing sociologist, cultural studies scholar, sex educator, playwright, director, poet, filmmaker, and author. He was born and raised in Crown Heights (also known as the People’s Republic of Brooklyn) in Brooklyn, New York. His parents were Muslim when he was first born however his family raised him with a strong connection to his Blackness and African heritage.
Early on he was surrounded by a village from both his maternal and paternal sides of the family. He did not have a relationship with his father until the later years of his life, leaving his mother and his family to be his primary caretakers. He spent much of his early life with his maternal grandparents while his mother worked as an evening shift nurse. His maternal great-grandmother was a Garveyite, and his maternal grandparents were members of the American Labor Party, while his parents were members of the Black Panther Party, and later the Sunni Muslim community. The advocacy work Williams was raised witnessing was the catalyst for his interest in serving others. In his household, he was also raised with a strong knowledge of activism, Black literature, history and other aspects of the African world. He attended private Lutheran schools from K to 7th grade. His colonial education was supplemented by the education he received in his home. This parallel education afforded him a sense of pride, empowerment, and place in the world that his peers did not demonstrate at that time.
During elementary school, there was a boy from Williams’ class who lived directly across the alley from Williams. Their apartments were so close that they could see into each others’ bedroom window. They were best friends and spent a lot of time with one another. During overnight stays they engaged in sexual explorations with one another. Williams began sexual and erotic explorations with boys and girls early in his life, but after moving from that apartment across the alley from his close friend, he stopped engaging in sexual activities with men for quite some time. Even though he still had attraction and desires for men, he began to suppress those feelings and did not revisit those desires until he was in high school. A lot of his early romantic relationship experiences were with cisgender girls until he got a boyfriend in high school.
Williams has a maternal younger sister who was 12 years his junior, leaving him to be raised as an only child during the early part of child. He did not meet his paternal younger sister until he was in college. For this reason, he spent a lot of time alone in his room and in his imagination. He witnessed and experienced abuse in and out of the home. His family experienced structural and racial terrorism and he was a witness to and subject of that abuse as well.
A quote that Williams holds close to their heart is from Audre Lorde, “when we use our gifts in service to our vision, it matters little that we are afraid.” Early on in her life, she realized the power of her voice. Williams had to learn to use her voice even in fear. She grew up with a strong sense and interest in justice and Black love and those teachings and passions have helped to shape the work that he does.
At the young age of 13, Williams was touched deeply by the murders Eleanor Bumpurs (1984) and Michael Stewart (1983), but when they heard of the killing of Michael Griffith (1986), they felt a call to action. Another important moment of their life was when they was taken to a Muslim-owned Steak-n-Shake shop by two brothers of the Nation of Islam and while there, they noticed a sign on the wall advertising the Junior Engineering Club (JEC). They were 14 years old and these moments impacted them greatly.
Since they had interests in math and science, they brought the program information to their family who agreed to pay for their program tuition. They later found out that the organization that ran this science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics (STEAM) program, the Temple of the White and Gold Lotus, Shrine of Amen Ra, was a Kemetic priesthood. While in JEC, they had begun to learn the arts of Tai Chi Chuan, Chi Kung, Hatha Yoga, and mindfulness. It was a natural progression for them to be initiated into the Kemetic priesthood by Heru Khafra Ndongo Amen, High Priest and founder of the Temple of the White and Gold Lotus, Shrine of Amen-Ra. Williams would later receive the name Aih Djehuti Herukhuti Khepera Ra Temi Seti Amen. He studied and served as a junior priest and a teacher while in high school and college.
Williams attended the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, California after he turned 17. He founded a Kemetic community of Temple of the White and Gold Lotus, Shrine of Amen-Ra off campus and co-founded the Brotherhood of African Men, a student group, on campus. Through both organizations, he continued teaching yoga, mindfulness, pranayama, meditation, Tai Chi Chuan, Chi Kung, Hatha Yoga, African world history, and other topics. He taught the students of USC and also community members including members of the underground hip hop scene at The Good Life, a community health food center.
Williams took the name "Herukhuti" with his initiation. The meaning behind his namesake is a deity/divine principle in Kemet spirituality known as the executioner of justice. Herukhuti literally means the face of God/The Divine at sunrise and sunset. With this name comes a tremendous amount of energy to carry, particularly given that he started carrying it at such a young age. He had to learn not only what it meant for him but how people around him were affected by it energetically and unconsciously, e.g., people immediately feel judged or intimidated without him doing anything other than just being.
When he returned to New York City, he gained his experience in theatre as a playwright and director by founding the theatre arts program at School of the Future, a grades 6-12 public school, and as a learner and artist through the Theater of the Oppressed Laboratory and a Theatre of the Oppressed (TO) course at New York University. TO is theatre style describes theatrical forms that the Brazilian theatre practitioner Augusto Boal first elaborated in the 1970s. Williams credits his work in theatre to the Black performance tradition and TO . During this period, he also was active in the spoken word and poetry scene. He was a member of the community of poets and performers at the weekly open mic night at the Brooklyn Moon Cafè. Because this was also a time of personal acceptance, Williams began to infuse his work with bisexual themes for the first time in his career.
For a legacy, they would like to leave behind the hope that Black people are able to reclaim their bodies outside of Western constructs around heterosexuality and queerness. They use the term kweerness, which they define as a way to expand the understanding of gender and reclaiming heritage and reclaim indigenous forms of gender and sexual diversity in the pan African world. This work they do is not just for Black people that identify as LGBTQ but for Black people that identify as heterosexual because they all have been forced to approach gender and sexuality through colonial Eurocentric frameworks.
Williams holds a Ph.D. from Fielding Graduate University in human and organizational systems with a concentration in transformative learning for social justice and specializations in sexuality and cross-cultural studies of knowledge. Williams' work centers body work, which she defined as helping to connect Black people to their bodies, essentially freeing the body. Her hope is that those she works with will be reconnected with their body, trust of their body, and the sacredness in the body. She helps people own their bodies and to relearn the concepts of loving their body without fear. In this work, she challenges settlercolonialism, imperialism, white supremacy, capitailism, and cisheteropatriarchy. Her contribution to the decolonization movement is bringing the Black community into ever expanding levels of embodiment.
They studied sex research, sexology, and sexual health related to HIV at the HIV Center for Clinical and Behavioral Studies of the New York State Psychiatric Institute and Columbia University through a National Institute of Mental Health-funded graduate research assistantship. They have held a playwriting fellowship at Lambda Literary Foundation, a National Endowment of the Humanities fellowship in the Black aesthetics and African-Centered cultural expressions at Emory University, and a filmmaking fellowship at Third World Newsreel. They are a member of the editorial boards of Journal of Bisexuality and Journal of Black Sexuality and Relationships. They co-edited Recognize: The Voices of Bisexual Men and Sexuality, Religion, and the Sacred: Bisexual, Pansexual, and Polysexual Perspectives. They authored Conjuring Black Funk: Notes on Culture, Sexuality and Spirituality, Volume 1 (Vintage Entity Press, 2007.) They are a recipient of the PFLAG Brenda Howard Memorial Award for their bisexual public policy advocacy and activism. They are executive producer and co-director of the forthcoming documentary film, No Homo | No Hetero: Sexual Fluidity and Manhood in Black America and author of the forthcoming poetry book, Race. Resistance. Love.
(This biographical statement was written by Vanesa Evers from an interview with H. “Herukhuti” Sharif Williams and edited by Williams. The sources below were also referenced.)
Biography Date: February 2022
“Dr. H. Sharif Williams | Profile”, LGBTQ Religious Archives Network, accessed June 05, 2023, https://lgbtqreligiousarchives.org/profiles/h-sharif-williams.