This event is free and open to the public, but registration is encouraged. Please register HERE. This event takes place at the Auburn Avenue Research Library, 101 Auburn Ave NE, Atlanta, GA 30303.
Charis and Auburn Avenue Research Library welcome Raquel Willis in conversation with Ts Madison for a discussion of The Risk It Takes to Bloom: On Life and Liberation, a passionate, powerful memoir by a trailblazing Black transgender activist, tracing her life of transformation and her work towards collective liberation.
In 2017, Raquel Willis took to the National Women’s March podium just after the presidential election of Donald Trump, primed to tell her story as a young Black transgender woman from the South. Despite having her speaking time cut short, the appearance only deepened her commitment to speaking up for communities on the margins.
Born in Augusta, Georgia, to Black Catholic parents, Raquel spent years feeling isolated, even within a loving, close-knit family. There was little access to understanding what it meant to be queer and transgender. It wasn’t until she went to the University of Georgia that she found the LGBTQ+ community, fell in love, and explored her gender for the first time. But the unexpected death of her father forced her to examine her relationship with herself and those she loved. These years of grief, misunderstanding, and hard-won epiphanies seeped into the soil of her life, serving as fertilizer for growth and allowing her to bloom within.
Upon graduation, Raquel entered a career in journalism against the backdrop of the burgeoning Movement for Black Lives, intersectional feminism going mainstream, and unprecedented visibility of the trans community. After hiding her identity while a newspaper reporter, her increasing awareness of the epidemic of violence plaguing trans women of color and the heightened suicide of trans teens inspired her to come out publicly. Within just a few short years of community organizing in Atlanta, Oakland, and New York, Raquel emerged as one of the most formidable Black trans activists in history.
In The Risk It Takes to Bloom, Raquel Willis recounts with passion and candor her experiences straddling the Obama and Trump eras, the possibility of transformation after tragedy, and how complex moments can push us all to take necessary risks and bloom toward collective liberation.
RAQUEL WILLIS (she/her) is an award-winning writer, activist, and media strategist dedicated to Black transgender liberation. She has been the communications director for Ms. Foundation for Women, executive editor of Out magazine, and national organizer for the Transgender Law Center. Her writing has been published in Black Futures by Kimberly Drew and Jenna Wortham, and Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America, 1619- 2019 edited by Ibram X. Kendi and Keisha Blain, and within many media outlets. The Risk It Takes to Bloom is her first book.
TS Madison is arguably one of the biggest names on social media as an influencer! The icon TS Madison also adds reality star to her credit with The TS Madison Experience airing on WE Tv. She can be seen hosting her own show on Fox Soul TV entitled "Turnt Out with TS Madison." The new hit show discusses pop culture news, the black church, transgender equality, plus-size women fashion tips, her risqué DMs, and cinema's hottest releases. TS Madison, the music artist superstar, continues to make history. She is featured on Beyoncé's Renaissance track titled "Cozy." Madison and Honey Dijon (a producer on "Cozy," the song Madison's audio appears on) are the first Black transwomen to land a top 40 hit on the Billboard Hot 100.
Coined as "The Electric TS Madison," by popular talk show host, Tamron Hall, as a social influencer rock star, to date, TS Madison has netted millions of followers and is increasing daily on Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and other multiple media platforms. She is the author of "A Light through the Shade: An Autobiography of a Queen," a television host, producer, artist, motivational speaker, media personality, for which she hosts her popular online unfiltered gossip talk show, "The Queens Supreme Court," which garners millions of viewers each week. Madison has built her social media influencer name by walking in her unapologetic truth, as an openly transgender woman. Her ability to interact with her followers (or as she likes to say "The Maddie Mob") on a more personal level by regularly posting photos of her life and experiences, has made her adored, even more.
As an activist tackling stigma through storytelling. Madison uses her celebrity status to advocate for both the trans community and LGBTQ rights. Her body of work in television and film, for which she is known include Trans-Me, The Lady in the Locket (2017), and The Comedy Show (2016), Zola (2021), Bros (2022), and Hush series on AMC Network's ALLBLK (2023). Dr. TS Madison received an honorary doctorate of philosophy in humanitarian from Leaders Esteem Christian Bible University in Houston, Texas. A native of Miami, Florida, Madison's story of growing up trans and sharing about her life on social media platforms has reshaped the way that the public conceptualizes transgender and gender-nonconforming identities and experiences. @therealtsmadison
A passionate, powerful memoir by a trailblazing Black transgender activist, tracing her life of transformation and her work towards collective liberation.