Dr. Antoinette Ellis-Williams is Chair and Professor of Women’s & Gender Studies at New Jersey City University where she teaches: Women, Hip Hop Spoken Word & Social Change; Women & Leadership; Race, Class, Gender Activism; Diversity & Difference; Black Womanhood. Dr. Ellis-Williams is a mixed media artist, and poet. Her solo visual exhibit Girlhood/UnDone (October-November 2017) showed at NJCU. She is the author of Black Gardenias: A Collection of Poems, Stories, & Sayings From A Woman’s Heart (Semaj Publishing, 2013). Dr. Ellis-Williams is a playwright and actor. Her one woman play Scarf Diaries premiered at NJPAC in 2017. Ellis-Williams is an award winning filmmaker. Her documentary Lee Hagan: Connecting Generations (2016) won best short documentary at the Newark Black Film Festival. She is a highly sought after international public speaker & lecturer. Her TedX Talk Finding Justice in the Land of the Free (2015) tried to unpack her immigrant status in America. Dr. Ellis-Williams is a minister at Bethany Baptist Church in Newark where she calls home. She is a member of the board of trustees for the New Jersey Institute of Social Justice. Dr. Ellis-Williams earned her Ph.D. in Public Policy & Urban and Regional Planning. Immigrant. Mother. Wife. Citizen. Black Woman of God. Sister. Daughter. Grateful.
I have always been an artist, but at fifty years of age, I began to intentionally focus on developing my visual artist voice and skills. My creative process is based on the idea of layering, recycling, reimagining, and mixing methods. Mixed media collaging is at the heart of the process. I am constantly searching beneath layers for hidden messages and light. For example, I combine my original work (acrylic and watercolor paintings, silk batik, digital photos, and drawings) with print and digital images found in magazines, newspapers, brochures, textiles, cards, and/or various objects. The image continues to evolve, shifting as the sociopolitical and cultural road map changes.
My work explores the layers of my own identity---blackness, girl/womanhood, mother, wife, and immigrant---in the context of popular culture, power, politics, religion/faith, history, music, social movements and socioeconomics. The work is a commentary on the textured lives of marginalized people. I create pieces as a way of unpacking rage, pain, contradictions, beauty, agency and joy constantly trying to understand the complex history and narrative of blackness in the United States and black the diaspora.
Social justice themes emerge in my work. The images invite the viewer to consider the ongoing effects of racism, sexism, homophobia, environmental injustice and xenophobia on humanity. The victim narrative is not my point; rather, it is one of transformation through positive memories of family, hope, education, faith, humor, love and vision. It is through reimagining the dichotomies that we find flowers in urban spaces, children moving and laughing in poverty, women sipping wine with sister-friends loving one another through shared pain, and men boldly pressing forward knowing they are the target of the criminal justice system.
Kara Walker, Kerry James Marshall, Mark Bradford, Kehinde Wiley, Faith Ringgold, Kerrie Mae Weems, Yinka Shonibare, Romare Bearden, and Jacob Lawrence all influence and inspire my work. These artists tell stories that challenge me to examine blackness in its blackest black, and surround subjects with rich vibrant colors. I am emboldened to use layers in images to build and celebrate stories. For example, Ringgold’s story quilts are feminist collages—boldly moving women from object to subject. Jacob Lawrence’s imagery of the mundane lives of black people forces me to appreciate the simply things of life. Bearden’s approach to collaging is expressive and spiritual. His technique of layering provides a perfect vehicle of extracting meaning and metaphors.
I hope to trigger conversations that help to transform communities, heal, empower and heal people.
Recent Exhibits/Shows (highlights)
• Artist, “From This Fertile Soil: Ancestors & Icons: An Exhibit on African-American Artists”, Curator: Mansa K. Mussa. West Orange Public Library, February 2- February 29, 2020.
• Collaborative Muralist, “Magnitude and Bond” by Women of Violet Collective WOVC @wombofviolet (member of WOVC) located on Halsey Street in Newark, NJ.
• Artist, “NO FEAR” A Group Exhibition & Pop Up gallery, Curated by Pink Dragon Artist Syndicate, Open Studios Tour, Manufacturer’s Village, East Orange, NJ October 19-20, 2020.
• Artist, “Black & Brown UnParalleled Truth”, Juried Exhibition, Femme Curator Arts, 18th Annual Newark Arts Festival, October 10-13, 2019.
• Artist, Spotlight Exhibit, “Girls, Culture and Resistance,” Juried Exhibition, 18th Annual Newark Arts Festival, October 10-13, 2019.
• Artist, “Expressive Creative Soul” Juried Exhibition, The Bridge Art Gallery, 18th Annual Newark Arts Festival, October 10-13, 2019.
• Artist, “Her Grace”, Akwaaba Gallery, Newark, NJ October 12-November 12.
• Contributor, “A Womb of Violet: An Anthology”, Project for Empty Space, Feminist Incubator, Newark, New Jersey, March 2019.
• Presenter, “Lessons of Resistance by Jamaican Grandmothers Through Digital Art”, LATI Colloquium, New Jersey City University April 4, 2019.
• Panelist, “Pedagogy”, National Women’s Studies Association Annual Conference, Atlanta, Georgia, November 10, 2018.
• Solo Art Exhibit, “Girlhood/UnDone,” New Jersey City University October 28- November 26, 2018.
• One-Woman Play, “Scarf Dairies,” New Jersey Performing Arts Center, November 18, 2017.
• Art Exhibition, Identity + Context with Union Street Gallery, Newark, New Jersey, September 23-24, 2016
Dr. Antoinette Ellis-Williams graduated from Seton Hall, with a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology. She earned a Master’s of Public Administration (M.P.A.) from the University of Pittsburgh, Graduate School of Public and International Affairs. Dr. Ellis-Williams graduated from Cornell University, School of Human Ecology in 1996. Dr. Ellis-Williams earned her doctorate in Public Policy from Cornell University, School of Human Ecology where she graduated in 1996.
Dr. Antoinette Ellis-Williams is Professor and Chair of Women’s and Gender Studies at New Jersey City University where she has worked for over 23 years.
She teaches courses on Black Womanhood; Women, Hip Hop & Social Change; Diversity & Difference; Women & Leadership; Urban Men of Color; Race, Class, Gender Activism. She earned her Ph.D. Public Policy, Cornell University.
Dr. Ellis-Williams broad interests in the arts, critical race and gender theory and social justice has achieved critical acclaim throughout the state. She is a well- respected public speaker.
Antoinette as presented at hundreds of events throughout the state, nation, and world where both quality of thought and delivery are deemed important. For example, was invited to present a TEDx Talk, Finding Justice in the Land of the Free, Art House Productions, Jersey City, June 2015. Some other recent presentations and papers include “Black Women’s Use of Spoken Word Tradition as Resistance: Virtual vs. Live Expressions”, University of San Antonio, TX, April 2015; “When the Booty is White: Race, Identify, Appropriation and the Lingering Sarah Baartman Effect on Young Black Women”; Keynote Speaker, Kean University, Comparative Analysis of Women in the African Diaspora: Egypt and Ghana; Criminalizing Black Rage: Case Study Analysis of Newark, Los Angeles and Ferguson; and Festival, “Tales of Our Cities”, September 2014; Poetry Reading, Harlem Book Fair, Military Park, Newark, New Jersey, July 2014; Book Reading & Discussion, Literary Voices Book Club, Plainfield, New Jersey, July 2014; Poetry Reading & Discussant, A Tribute to Amiri Baraka, Bowery Poetry Club, New York, 2014; Contributor in book Edited by Dr. Willard W. C. Ashley Learning to Lead, (Chapter 30) Part III: Multiple Perspectives on “Working with the Black Diaspora” Learning to Lead, published by SkyLight Paths Publishing, a division of LongHill Partners; “Race and the Multicultural Discourse” (The Academic Forum: New Jersey City University, 2001); “Womb to Womb: Heart and Soul Secrets” (Women on Campus, 2000); “Discovering the Possibilities: A Study of African American Youth Resistance and Activism” (Education Forum, 2008), among many others.
Other research interests include work on Immigrants in the African Diaspora; Urban Politics; Youth, Women and Empowerment; Social Justice and Race, Civil Rights; Immigration; Cultural Diversity and African American Male Issues. Dr. Ellis-Williams’ authored a poetry book Black Gardenias: A Collection of Poems, Stories & Sayings From a Woman’s Heart (2014). She is also completing her memoir titled When the Curry Hits the Grits: One Jamaican Living in America Black, White and In Between.
Dr. Ellis-Williams presented at Oxford University in London, England on Human Rights. Her topic was “Transforming Communities: An Examination of a Womanist Paradigm and It’s Universality in Human Rights”. Dr. Ellis-Williams has presented at many conferences and seminars, among them the WEB. DuBois Scholars at Princeton University, New Jersey Leadership, New Jersey Project, Leadership Newark, Cornell University, Association of Black Cultural Centers, Kean University, The Center for Nonprofit and Philanthropic Leadership at Rutgers University and Harvard University.
Antoinette is a playwright, visual artist, poet and filmmaker. Her play Scarf Diaries: A Play About Women, Life and Entanglements debut at NJPAC, November 2017; author of Black Gardenias: A Collections of Poems, Stories, & Saying From A Woman's Heart. In 2016, she was the Winner of the Paul Robeson Short Documentary Award for “Lee Hagan: Connecting Generations”, Newark Black Film Festival. Her credits include producer, co-director, and writer.
Ellis-Williams is member of the board of Trustees for the New Jersey Institute of Social Justice, member of board of Trustees for the NJPAC Women’s Association. Member of Womb of Violet Newark Women Artist Collective. She a former member of New Jersey Supreme Court Committee Concerns on Minority Concerns. She is the past President of the Board of Trustees for East Orange Hospital where she served on the board for 10 years. She has served as Chair of Governance Committee EOGH, member of Finance, and Quality committees. Under her leadership the New Jersey Hospital Association has sited EOGH as a Board Model in Governance. In January 2011 the New Jersey Hospital Association named Ellis-Williams “Trustee of the Year”. She was awarded the 2008 Shirley Chisholm Award in Health Care, the recipient of the 2008 Caribbean Medical Mission Leadership Award and a finalist for 2009 NJBIZ Health Hero Educator. Additionally, Dr. Ellis-Williams formerly served on the New Jersey Hospital New She has served on the New Jersey Hospital Association Governance Council and the Regional Policy Board for the American Hospital Association (AHA) and a member of the Board of Trustees for the New Jersey Hospital Association. She is the recipient of numerous awards including Who’s Who (2010-2011), Essex County Civic Club Crispus Attucks Award, MLK Jr. Steward of the Dream honoree NJPAC/NAACP (2016), NJCU MLK Jr. Community Service Award (2017) and many others.
Ellis-Williams is currently a minister at Bethany Baptist Church, Newark NJ.