Meet Tallahassee Artist Olusegun “Segun” Williams

"Artists Inspire" Olusegun “Segun” Williams of Tallahassee

COCA /Tallahassee Arts continues to show how “Artists Inspire” in our community, featuring local artists of all genres. “Artists Inspire” gives us a glimpse into the lives of our working artists and cultural leaders – promoting what is unique to Tallahassee and our surrounding area.

Samuel G. Williams, “Segun,” is an educator, folklorist, historian, storyteller and musician. He began playing flute and percussion in the 1970s in Miami, Florida. Currently, he plays kalimba (thumb piano), shekere, congas and bongos. He has played with the following bands: Black Exodus, Blazin’ Fire, Mystic Revelation, Phoenix Uprising, Ital Stew, Work for Higher, Runaway Soul, The Palace Band, The African-Caribbean Dance Theater, and The Common ‘Taters Southern Funk Band. Segun has traveled to the Caribbean many times, including to Cuba. He performed there at the Fiesta del Fuego (XXIII Festival del Caribe) in Santiago Cuba in 2003 and again with The Common ‘Taters Southern Funk Band at the 34th and 35th International Jazz Plaza Festivals in Havana in 2019 and 2020.

Segun will be featured in the upcoming musical, “Civil Rights: Soul of a Movement,” this Saturday, September 18 at Lee Hall Auditorium on FAMU’s campus. Click here to learn more about “Civil Right: Soul of a Movement”.

What is necessary for your creative process?

In a word, I would say inspiration. I tend to have a creative process that is in response to something that happened–an event or a situation I find myself in. Inspiration doesn’t spring out of nowhere. There’s usually a precipitating factor.

What fictional character would you like to bring to life and meet?

There’s a character in one of my stories, High John the Conqueror, and there is also a High John the Conqueror root. The only thing more powerful than that root is a black cat bone. Because he is a slave, High John practices a type of resistance, like Brer Rabbit or Anancy, who does not have much actual power, so he uses wit to get over on his master.

What music is playing in your car?

Classical jazz, like John Coltrane or Dizzy Gilespie (whom I met). My mother knew him, and I got a phone call one day in Miami from someone who said he was John Burkes Gillespie. I said, “Who?” and he said “Dizzy”! He was just calling to say hello because my mother had given him my phone number. I have a photo of me and him in the dressing room where we jammed together.

What is the last local live performance, or book you have read, that had an impact on you?

It’s definitely a book. ‘The Post-Traumatic Slave Syndrome,’ by Dr. Joy DeGruy. It’s about the generational trauma that she calls “post-traumatic slave syndrome.” The book explains the manner in which it’s passed down from generation to generation.

It’s time to explore Tallahassee and Leon County; where are we going and why?

We want to go to Mission San Luis to get a glimpse of what Florida looked like under the Spanish. We want to go to John G. Riley Museum and Cultural Center. We want to go to Goodwood Plantation. We want to go to Cascades Park because of the information kiosks around it that give you a whole lot of information about Tallahassee. I picked these locations because I’m not a native of Tallahassee and these places and things informed me about the city.

If you were trapped in a TV show or movie for a month, which would it be?

I’m watching ‘Sleepy Hollow’ and it’s about Ichabod Crane coming into the present from the time of the revolutionary war. I kind of like the type of fiction that deals with spiritual forces and time travel. That might be one I’d like to get stuck in.

What superpower would you like to have?

Omnipotence, but I think somebody else already claims that.

What do you like best about living in Tallahassee?

That’s an easy one. I moved here from Miami and, not long after moving here, I began to wonder how I lived in Miami for all those years. There was something about waking up in the morning in Tallahassee to the sound of birds chirping as opposed to the sound of sirens and gunshots. And there was also the aspect of, if I had cause to leave Tallahassee, when I came back, as soon as I hit the city limits, I got a feeling of serenity. It’s hard to find trees in Miami and I appreciate the fact that Tallahassee wants to maintain its natural outdoor spaces.

What have you learned from failure?

There’s probably not a whole lot of progress without it. Scientists talk about it all the time. 89% of all experiments are failures, but that’s the process by which they learn about the nature of things. If you choose them (your failures) as building blocks to construct a better future, they can be productive.

What do you hope you will be remembered for?

Things I did that helped people, you know? Things that helped people start enterprises, organizations, and groups that became significant to the community, like the band I was in, Phoenix Uprising, or African Caribbean Dance Theatre, etc. (see bio). I saw these improve the lives of people in Tallahassee. So, my passion is to help create cultural institutions that last.

By Erica Thaler
Council on Culture & Arts (COCA)

Check more “Artist Inspire!” features on the Choose Tallahassee blog posts featuring Darius “Doc D” Baker and Patrice Floyd.

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