Recently I came across an interesting article about Rev. Angel Kyodo Williams, a Buddhist teacher that goes against many stereotypes found in Western Buddhism. In an interview with her, it mentions:
Rev. angel Kyodo williams doesn’t like stereotypes.
That’s not entirely surprising, since she also seems to enjoy shattering them. She’s a black queer woman in an American Buddhist tradition often steered by white men; a Buddhist operating in activist circles of mostly Christians and Jews; a leader of the Religious Left who doesn’t use the word “God.”
And while williams — whose first and last name aren’t capitalized — is known as a hard-charging activist for racial justice, she also has a knack for mixing difficult conversation with easy laughter.
When the author and Buddhist teacher agreed to be interviewed for this story, for instance, she invited me not to a meditation center or sacred locale, but to her upscale apartment along the river in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The decor was something akin to minimalist Buddhist chic, but also included trace elements of whimsy, such as the shiny, skull-shaped candle holder that sat atop her coffee table. Reclining on her couch for our interview, williams spoke slowly and deliberately, choosing her words carefully as the sun reflected off the river and onto the nearby wall.
“The first time I got arrested many years ago was here in New York—it was over by the Hudson River,” she told me. “I frankly can’t even remember what it was about.”
Her most recent arrest was a little more memorable: it happened just two weeks prior, when police escorted her out of the U.S. Capitol while cameras rolled.
To some, the stark contrast between williams’ private and public life — much less her Buddhist identity and her activism — may seem like a contradiction. But where others see contradictions, she sees opportunities. In fact, taking advantage of opportunities is precisely what makes her such a powerful change agent — and what may make her a crucial part of the “spiritual left’s” future.