Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Bertram Williams. I was born and raised in Memphis, Tennessee. I spent time in Whitehaven. My father grew up in South Memphis. I grew up out east, lived downtown, and I’ve scraped my knee in literally every neighborhood in the city. So, I have a connection, to some degree, with Memphis as a whole, right? Presently, I work in collaboration with some people I love who are a part the Memphis art scene. The people at The Den and The Collective. We have been working diligently in The Edge district to support this idea of arts as a means of affecting change.
Would you consider yourself as an artist?
Absolutely. Thank you! I’m embracing my inner artist. (Laughs) I’ve been acting for about 10 years with Hattiloo theater. So, I’m low-key certified now. (Laughs) So, yeah, my artistry deals with theater and vocal performance. Like many artists, I’m my toughest critic and have only owned that idea in recent months, you know, to even say that confidently. But, that’s how I get off. On stage.
So, how has you being an artist, specifically being an actor, changed or enhanced your life?
So, to stand on stage in front of people requires a certain level of resolve. Where you kind of say “fuck what everybody else is thinking” or either you prepare well enough where you ain’t worried about what they thinking because you know you’re doing well. So, as an actor, I’ve been forced to speak publicly, be uncomfortable, and talk to people I wouldn’t have normally talked to. That alone I think has prepared me on my walk as a person. Like when it comes to meeting new people, it has given me a different level of not only confidence but a certain level of openness. It gave me practice in engaging with other people and opening myself up for meaningful exchanges.
What does “Embracing Your Inner Memphis” mean to you?
I feel like people who have grown up or spent a considerable amount of time in Memphis, you have to at some point confront fear in a very real sense. So fear for me growing up was something as simple as going to school and getting into a fight. Fear was getting “checked”. Fear was not being accepted. Fear was being afraid for my life at different points. Going to a party and seeing a gun for the first time. That’s fear. And so ultimately that’s my short answer. Embracing fear. Memphis is a city that teaches you and forces you to confront fear. And so folks who’ve done that (embrace the fear) it propelled them and prepared you for any situation. There is fear in claiming yourself as an artist, right? There is fear in putting on an event and not knowing if anyone gon’ come. So, I feel like what embracing your inner Memphis truly means is channeling that energy that has the potential to paralyze you and using it to propel you.
“Memphians have an intrinsic toughness. High-level toughness. Memphis gives it to you straight.” Tweet thisBertram Williams
When you’re forced to confront obstacles and embrace fear, there is so much power in that. So for people who walk in that, and have the courage to confront that idea or that experience, those are the people who really embrace their inner Memphis. I’ve learned that. That’s what it is. No holds barred. Unadulterated. Fuck the idea of failure. Fuck fear.
Photos taken by Averell Mondie.