Remerro Trotsky Williams was only 10 when hundreds of thousands of civil rights activists suddenly descended on his hometown. Of course, when your hometown is Washington, D.C., this sort of thing isn't all that strange.
Still, the gathering had a huge impact on the United States, and transformed Williams's life as well. The year was 1963, and all those people had come for the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, during which Martin Luther King gave his famous "I Have a Dream" speech. Williams's world changed that day, he says: "I learned that differences in acceptance could be attributable to color ... and my journey for balance and harmony [in my life] began."
Williams carries on in the tradition of the March in his artwork even today. "My work supports a long standing desire for equality, dialogue and [continuing] social commentary," he explains. "Notions carried from childhood are now informed by the adult concepts of deliberation and experimentation."
Williams got his big break on the art scene in 1989, when singer/songwriter Bob Dylan saw his street mural "Dancing Couple." The piece gained Williams international recognition when, later that year, it became the cover art for Dylan's album, "Oh Mercy."
A few months after the album was released, Williams was diagnosed with HIV. Like many people who were diagnosed in the late 1980s, he began living life with a "the-hell-with-it-all attitude," he says. Williams quickly went from being "the next big thing" to being "dismissed as a serious artist by the powers that be." But he didn't really care; he thought that his death was imminent and felt that nothing he could do would matter in the end "I never thought I'd still be alive in 2007," he said.
When he eventually realized that death was not imminent, Williams completely changed his outlook on life. "HIV has astonished and confounded me, my work and my friends in uncounted ways [and that's not a bad thing]," he explains. He expresses that muddle of emotions it the best way he knows how: through his art. One of the most powerful examples might be a piece entitled "Physics," which is made from dozens of donated pill bottles, pills, needles and other HIV medication paraphernalia. The materials are arranged to look like a bunch of flowers, illuminating "the deeper meaning" that Williams says he's come to appreciate: after HIV, there is still beauty and life.