Shooting victim Ellazar Williams speaks at Black History Month Film Event
The room was filled with uncertainty, unsure of what actions to take as the guest of honor had arrived. The reception was lukewarm, as if everyone present wanted to make the environment an inviting one, yet the audience was split on how to welcome him. Overwhelm the man with applause? Or make him feel like any other guest? Or, alternatively, just enjoy the time here for the feature presentation.
It was a split decision as scattered applauses and empathetic gazes embraced Ellazar Williams at the opening night event of the 2019 Black History Film Series, hosted by the Center for Law and Justice and the Albany Housing Authority at 200 S. Pearl Street in Downtown Albany.
Accompanied by his girlfriend, Williams was making his first public appearance since the painful injuries sustained from the infamous shooting by Albany Police Department officer James Olsen in late August of 2019.
The effects of the incident have left Williams, his girlfriend, and their family in a state of financial uncertainty, relying on donations to make ends meet, and to accommodate his growing medical needs, according to collective statements by the group.
The altercation, which left him paralyzed, resulted in a no bill decision by a grand jury, and the officer accused has been cleared of any wrongdoing, despite contradicting video evidence working against the narrative.
There was a clear apprehensiveness of the room of about thirty attendees.
The event– part of a black history month film series, discussing racism, colorism, and film– was put together by Dr. Alice Green, Executive Director of The Center for Law and Justice in Albany. Being played along with Williams’ lectures was the critically acclaimed motion picture Black Panther, Williams’ favorite movie.
At around 6:30 p.m., Williams made his way into the back entrance of the Albany Housing Authority building. His bright red sneakers offset his colorful blue and red jacket. Before the start of the film, Williams answered questions on the feature, which he claims he’s seen “over fifty times” since his shooting.
“I wanted to know if you had any thoughts on the part in the museum, in terms of the art being taken from Wakanda?” Asked one attendee.
Williams took a moment to collect his thoughts, pondering. The question seemed to play out like a test of Williams’s claim of having watched the film so many times over.
Williams picked his head up and answered, “It showed how, they basically took advantage at the time, trying to take over everything…it showed how people tried to change history a little bit.”
Williams ended his answer appearing poised and astute with his words.
Following Williams’ words to the audience, Dr. Green presented Williams with a series of gifts, including a $100 Olive Garden gift card, a restaurant that he said he loves, and a Black Panther t-shirt and poster.
The incident and the events following it was widely covered by local and regional news outlets, including the Times Union.
Due to time constraints and scheduling, only half of the film was showed.
The other half will be part of next week’s showing, on Thursday, February 14th at the Albany Housing Authority, followed by a Q&A with Williams.