Attorney, author, television and podcast host, Eboni K. Williams approaches the Blackest Questions bench. Will she raise the bar? Tune in on this week’s episode of The Blackest Questions hosted by Dr. Christina Greer.
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[00:00:00] You are now listening to theGrio’s Black Podcast Network, Black Culture Amplified.
Host Dr. Christina Greer [00:00:06] Hi, and welcome to The Blackest Questions. I’m your host, Dr. Christina Greer, politics editor for theGrio and associate professor of political science at Fordham University. In this podcast, we asked our guests five of the Blackest Questions so we can learn a little bit more about them and have some fun while we’re doing it. We’re also going to learn a lot about Black history, past and present. So here’s the way this works. We have five rounds of questions about us, Black history, the whole diaspora, current events, everything. With each round, the questions will get a little bit tougher and the guest has 15 seconds to get it right. If they answer the question correctly, they will receive one symbolic Black fist and hear this…. If they get it wrong, they’ll hear this… But we’ll still love them anyway. And after the five questions, there’ll be a Black bonus round at the end just for fun. Our guest for this episode is Eboni K. Williams, an author, attorney and television host and producer. She received her undergraduate degree from UNC Chapel Hill, her J.D. from Loyola University in New Orleans, and an honorary doctorate from Benedict College just a few months ago. And finally, she is the first Black housewife on The Real Housewives of New York. Eboni, thank you so much for joining the Blackest Questions. How are you?
Eboni K. Williams [00:01:18] I’m so glad you’re with me, Christina. This has been overdue, so I’m thrilled to be here.
Host Dr. Christina Greer [00:01:22] Well overdue. Can you just tell us how you decided to shift from the legal world to, I would say, entertainment? You might say infotainment or edutainment. Oh, yeah. In a world where we need a lot of different types of voices. What made you decide to make that shift?
Eboni K. Williams [00:01:43] Well, you just said it, Christina, right? We need and deserve as Black people and Black women, many different voices and representations of the dynamics that we encompass. Right. It can never be on just one or two Black women to do all the work of representing our fabulosity. So it was my great pleasure and responsibility to transition from practicing law in a courtroom. Right. To still, you know, using, you know, legal theory, my legal education and my pursuits for justice and freedom, ultimately right, in spaces that now involve mass media. So everything from my podcast, Holding Court with Eboni K. Williams, to my work with Revolt, to yes, my infamous work as the first Black housewife on Real New York City, in reality TV.
Host Dr. Christina Greer [00:02:28] Absolutely. I think, you know, there’s space for us to be in many spaces. Right. And there’s a necessity for us to be in a lot of different ways. You know, I’m not just in the classroom. I actually do think for me, not just for our people, but for me, is is like my spirit needs to be a lot of places, too. So it’s so great that, you know, like LeBron James that I’m taking my talent to South Beach. It’s like, you know, avenues. Like I’m taking my talents.. I’m taking em on TV, radio, you name it.
Eboni K. Williams [00:02:56] Wherever we want to go. Yeah.
Host Dr. Christina Greer [00:02:58] Yeah well, that’s the thing, right? As Black women, wherever we want to go! Have brilliance will travel! So you ready to play some Blackest Questions?
Eboni K. Williams [00:03:07] I think I am, chile! Let’s do it.
Host Dr. Christina Greer [00:03:10] Okay, let’s do it. First question! What is the name of the movie that was released on October 24th, 1978, and stars Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Richard Pryor and Lena Horne, to name just a few.
Eboni K. Williams [00:03:25] Why? Anything Michael Jackson? I better know child, because I am a massive MJ fan. That would be The Wiz.
Host Dr. Christina Greer [00:03:32] That is correct. Yes. It was originally a Broadway musical starring Stephanie Mills in 1974. It was considered a commercial failure when it originally released, but later became a cult classic and was adapted for television in 2015 on NBC. And The Wiz also starred Nipsey Russell, Ted Ross and Mabel King. And during the production of the film, Michael Jackson and Quincy Jones connected. That’s actually where they connected. And Jones went on to produce Off the Wall Thriller and Bad. And so growing up, do you remember watching The Wiz?
Eboni K. Williams [00:04:04] Of course I remember watching The Wiz. I even caught that very short Quincy Jones cameo that he made in The Wiz as The Piano Man. But again, I am a, and my mother, Christina, a massive MJ fan. So everything that was rooted in MJ, I digested and really, believe it or not, MJ, Michael Jackson is one of my greatest mentors. I’ve never met Michael Jackson. I never had a conversation with Michael Jackson. But I talk to young people about this all the time. Christina You don’t have to have a personal relationship with someone for them to mentor you. People can mentor you through their work, through their legacy, and through their example. So the level of excellence in which Michael Jackson showed up in his craft is a great inspiration to me.
Host Dr. Christina Greer [00:04:50] I love that philosophy because I always tell my students there, there’s so many ways that you can have different types of mentors. So I have mentors that are in, say, two years or four years ahead of me professionally. I also have mentors who are way ahead of me, you know, and really have a career that that I admire. But also, I have, you know, sort of it’s kind of like an inverse mentor, you know, where I see people who behave in particular ways, who don’t necessarily mentor others, who don’t, you know, lean back and pull others up across the finish line. And I think that it’s just important to see those types of people, to make sure you realize, I don’t want to emulate that type of relationship as I move forward in my career.
Eboni K. Williams [00:05:31] Yeah, it’s a nice gut check, right, to see what you don’t want to embody out in the world.
Host Dr. Christina Greer [00:05:36] Absolutely right. So, okay, shifting back to MJ, so we see a very young MJ in The Wiz. What is your favorite MJ album?
Eboni K. Williams [00:05:46] Off the Wall! That was easy. Off the Wall is my favorite MJ album. My favorite MJ song is probably somewhere between Working Day and Night and Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough.
Host Dr. Christina Greer [00:06:01] Hmm. You know, I like some of you know, the older I get, the more I appreciate some of Michael Jackson’s ballads. Yeah. You know, some of the slower.
Eboni K. Williams [00:06:09] She’s Out Of My Life.
Host Dr. Christina Greer [00:06:10] Yeah. Or, you know, The Lady of My Life, you know.
Eboni K. Williams [00:06:18] I Can’t Stop Loving You! Each time the wind blows, I hear your voice, .. Oh, no, child. You don’t want me to do that Christina. Go head now.
Host Dr. Christina Greer [00:06:25] Ok now! Well, I lip sync in church, so here we are. Okay, so you’re already one for one. You ready to go on to the second question?
Eboni K. Williams [00:06:32] Yes maam. Let’s keep it moving.
Host Dr. Christina Greer [00:06:34] Okay, let’s do it. Let’s keep this energy going. On April 5th, 2021, who was named the first Black head coach for UNC’s Men’s Basketball team?
Eboni K. Williams [00:06:45] That’s Herbert. Um, child, what’s Coach Herbert’s last name. Herbert. Something start with a G child. I think.
Host Dr. Christina Greer [00:06:55] It’s Hubert Davis.
Eboni K. Williams [00:06:57] Davis. Coach Daivs.
Host Dr. Christina Greer [00:06:57] Who was born in.. Hubert Davis. Coach Davis, born in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, attended UNC for undergraduate and graduate degrees and has a graduate degree in criminal justice. He was taken as the 20th pick in the 1992 NBA draft, and he played for five teams from 1992 to 2004. And he was an assistant coach for the UNC men’s basketball team from 2012 to 2021. And he went 25 to 10 in his first season and played in the 2022 national championship game. And they lost by three points to Kansas. You may remember that.
Eboni K. Williams [00:07:30] You had to run that in.
Host Dr. Christina Greer [00:07:30] UNC alum. I’m sorry. Just, these are just the facts. But one, one of the few people in the world to be in the Final Four as a player, as an assistant coach and as a head coach.
Eboni K. Williams [00:07:42] That is phenomenal. And I should not get credit for that because I should have known Coach Davis’ name. I just I can see his face girl that covid braind has me a little slow off of the take.
Host Dr. Christina Greer [00:07:52] Yeah, that’s totally the way it is we’re all just trying to scratch and survive over here like Good Times. So, you know, you’re a UNC Alum. Were you a fan before you went to UNC as undergrad? Did you follow UNC basketball? Did you follow UNC all before you attended?
Eboni K. Williams [00:08:08] You know? So I was only a fan of the NBA prior to undergraduate school. I am a very proud first generation college graduate. Christin.a And so college sports just really weren’t on the ethos in my family and my upbringing, so I actually had no clue about the rivalry girl. The whole Duke Carolina thing was I was introduced to it on campus. And don’t you worry, Tar Heels. I am an avid hater of the DOOK. I learned the right way and the right shade of blue, and you know, it’s all good now. But no, I was a brand new Tar Heel. I like to say I’m not a Tar Heel fan. I’m an alum. It’s different.
Host Dr. Christina Greer [00:08:49] It is different. And where were you raised before you went to UNC?
Eboni K. Williams [00:08:53] Yes, I grew up in Charlotte, North Carolina. So huge, you know, basketball country from an NBA perspective. I grew up with the Charlotte Hornets and also obviously the home of really, college basketball, I would say is North Carolina.
Host Dr. Christina Greer [00:09:06] Now, did you feel going on? Did you live on campus when you were in undergrad.
Eboni K. Williams [00:09:10] All four years? Such a big nerd. And I was a R.A of course. Oh.
Host Dr. Christina Greer [00:09:16] You know what? If I had to guess, I would have guessed that you were an R.A.. And guess what? I was never an R.A..
Eboni K. Williams [00:09:23] I was a hot mess of one. So go ahead.
Host Dr. Christina Greer [00:09:25] So but when you when you you said your first generation college, did it feel like you were entering into a totally different world, even though you’re in the same state and going to university? Was it a huge shift or how did it feel sort of going to, you know, a pretty prestigious campus that has not only world class academics, world class athletics, you know, you’re in such a beautiful environment where, you know, so much of the UNC campus is deliberate to let you know you were at an elite institution and you should be treated and assumed as much.
Eboni K. Williams [00:09:57] You are and you are accountable for maintaining that legacy. Right. I feel like that was a really big message the moment you set foot on campus. Everywhere on campus at UNC, as you know, you’re reminded that we were the first public university. You’re reminded of the legacy of the great intellectual, heavyweight and athletic heavyweights that reside on that campus. So it was a huge different world for me, Christina. Mainly because I was 16 years old when I went to enroll and, you know, being literally a kid among giants. So it was a fresh world, an exciting world and a really good opportunity for me to start cementing aspects of my family’s legacy in new ways. That’s really how I viewed my ascension to UNC.
Host Dr. Christina Greer [00:10:44] That’s beautiful. It’s a beautiful way to to look at it. I have so many colleagues who work very closely as first generation professors, and they work very closely with first generation students. That’s just a really beautiful way to to think about one’s role in the academy. Okay. So we’re one for two. But hey, let’s keep going. Question number three. You ready?
Eboni K. Williams [00:11:04] Yes. Okay. Let me redeem myself.
Host Dr. Christina Greer [00:11:06] In the city’s 300 year history, she made history and became the first woman to be elected mayor of New Orleans. Who is she?
Eboni K. Williams [00:11:17] That’s Latoya Cantrell.
Host Dr. Christina Greer [00:11:21] That’s right. Mayor Latoya Cantrell. Yes. She was sworn in May 7th, 2018, and was reelected for a second term on November 13th, 2021. She moved to New Orleans from Los Angeles in 1990 when she attended Xavier University and said, My soul has found its home in New Orleans. And so. Have you ever met Mayor Cantrell?
Eboni K. Williams [00:11:42] Funny story.
Host Dr. Christina Greer [00:11:43] In your studies at Loyola or while working in Louisana?
Eboni K. Williams [00:11:44] I had a very funny story. First of all, let me say I thought that was a trick question, Christina, because you said it was first woman, and I was like, wait, I know Latoya is the first mayor. Latoya Cantrell is the first Black woman, but was there a white woman? And then I did a quick little rundown of the recent mayors I remember from New Orleans the past 50 years, and they said, we are the first as typical. Okay. So I have not met Mayor Cantrell, but you know who has my mother, Gloria Jay Williams. She met her in an Ulta in New Orleans. Yes. Yes. And ran up there and, you know, was complimenting Mayor Cantrell on her skin and the beauty of her skin. And then she said something about me going to Loyola Law. And then Mayor Cantrell actually watched me on Real Housewives of New York. So they took an usie and sent it to me. It was very cute.
Host Dr. Christina Greer [00:12:35] Oh, I love it. I absolutely love it. And during, you know, your time in New Orleans, which is a beautiful city, you know, I’m an urbanist and, you know, I study cities. And New Orleans has such a rich history. What are some of your favorite areas to visit or memories of New Orleans during your time there? Everyone always talks about the food, which is real, but there’s so much more. I mean, just the architecture for me is.
Eboni K. Williams [00:12:58] The architecture is splendid. I am a fan of the Parisian esthetic. And, you know, as a New Orleans slash, southeast Louisiana native, you know, it’s Creole culture, right? It is the the the hybrid and the synthesis of Africana meets the French, you know, influence. So the architecture is amazing. I love the Treme section of New Orleans. I love I’m a huge fan of live music. Christina, again, I don’t sing I don’t play anything well. But I was in jazz band growing up, so I played the alto. and tenor saxophone. So to go here, you know, at Tipitina’s, you know, live music or at, you know, honestly, not for nothing people still pull up to Hard Rock and have a great show. It’s just it’s a vibe. The Columns hotel for a great craft cocktail. I love Uptown. I love Mid-City. And I love Treme in New Orleans.
Host Dr. Christina Greer [00:13:55] Hmm. Well, I’m still stuck on jazzband.
Eboni K. Williams [00:14:00] I know. That’s a mess.
Host Dr. Christina Greer [00:14:02] Well, we can start a little group, because after. After I defended my dissertation, I went out the next day and bought a trumpet. I was so happy. I was like, I just have to, like, shout it from the rooftops. And so I took trumpet lessons for three years as an adult.
Eboni K. Williams [00:14:15] Absolutely. We’ll get us some gigs. Come on.
Host Dr. Christina Greer [00:14:18] All right, listen. I believe in little side hustles. Now, you said something in the beginning, you know, about representation and the necessity of it, and also how we are allowed to evolve and tap into all the different interests and facets of our multifaceted being. Would you ever think about,. I get this question all the time from my students, but would you ever think about running for mayor? Running for office?
Eboni K. Williams [00:14:41] I knew you were going to go there, Dr. Greer. The short answer is not in any practical way, because I am convinced and this goes actually right to my time in New Orleans, my time as a law student in New Orleans intersected with the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina. I was a second year law student when Katrina devastated the area. And so that was my introduction to American politics, was seeing the enormous dysfunction of the political system, massive political corruption. I always tell people, you want to political corruption, go down to New Orleans, Chicago or Baltimore. Anyway, and maybe take a pit stop over in Detroit. So with that said, with that said, I was very disenchanted with my and my personal ability to overcome the bureaucracy and just stay on this. That happens in the American political system. And so I’m very much still convinced, Christina, that my best ability to help do the work of liberating my people resides in my work in media and my ability to change narrative. Malcolm X tells us that the most powerful entity in the world is the media, is the press because it shapes narrative. The narrative really controls almost everything, including politics. So I believe that, you know, but listen, if God tapped me on my shoulder. And said, my beloved daughter, Eboni K. Williams, I need you to go serve your people in this capacity. I would be obedient.
Host Dr. Christina Greer [00:16:09] Okay? And I hope you would call me and let me know. We’ve got work to do. I’ll hit the ground running.
Eboni K. Williams [00:16:14] Oh, Lordy.
Host Dr. Christina Greer [00:16:15] Okay. You ready? You’re doing well. Ready for question number four?
Eboni K. Williams [00:16:19] I’m ready for number four.
Host Dr. Christina Greer [00:16:19] Okay. In 1844, he was the first African-American lawyer in the United States and later in his life became the first African-American justice of the peace. Who was he and what state did he pass the bar?
Eboni K. Williams [00:16:36] Oh, I wana say, was his first name, Charles.
Host Dr. Christina Greer [00:16:42] This is Macon Bolling Allen.
Eboni K. Williams [00:16:45] I did not know that. Wow.
Host Dr. Christina Greer [00:16:45] He passed thee bar in Maine. In the state of Maine. And so he wasorigianlly. Macon bolling Allen was born in Indiana in 1816. His admission to Maine’s bar was initially denied based on the grounds that he was not a, quote, legal citizen because he was African-American. He persisted and prevailed. He earned admission on July 3rd, 1844, and continued to be a trailblazer and became the first Black lawyer to practice in Massachusetts. And he helped found the first all African-American law firm in South Carolina. And in 2021, data from the American Bar Association found that Black attorneys make up 4.7% of all lawyers in the country. Can you believe that?
Eboni K. Williams [00:17:26] Sadly. I knew that stat. What’s his name again? Dr. Greer.
Host Dr. Christina Greer [00:17:31] His name is Macon Bolling Allen.
Eboni K. Williams [00:17:32] Macon Bowling Allen. Beautiful. I learned a wonderful fact today. Great.
Host Dr. Christina Greer [00:17:38] What motivated you to go to law school?
Eboni K. Williams [00:17:40] Going back to this notion of representation in all spaces and dispelling false narrative around Blackness and Black people. One of the things that was always really obvious and apparent to me, Christina, even as a kid, is just the, innate sense of subordination, that Black people are treated with and is expected to occupy in our country, just on GP. And so it was always very important to me that as I ascended to adulthood, that I occupied a space that, provided some sense of power and not only personal power, but also the ability to empower others, that looked like me. Others that were positioned like me. So in this nation, you know, lawyering is one of the good old professions that still permits an almost an inherent sense of power. When you go into a space. There is something innate when you when you introduce yourself as so-and-so, esquire, so-and-so, counselor of law. Your understanding and the presumption of intelligence and capability and capacity that goes along with lawyering. Those were the things that drew me to the profession. To be very candid. Sometimes that’s surprising to people because they’re used to more kind of altruistic answers. Like, I wanted to help people, you know? You know? And that’s part of it, of course. You know, like most everyone, we know that family, close family, horrifically impacted by our criminal justice system and all of that. But that part aside, it was little more strategic for me, Christina. It was a little more about making sure that upon my arrival as an adult, professional Black woman in this country, my credibility was unimpeachable.
Host Dr. Christina Greer [00:19:31] Absolutely. Now for our listeners. If really briefly, if someone said, why should I go to law school? Like, you know, I’m young, I’m interested. What one little piece of advice would you give them if they said, I’ve decided I am going to go to law school? Give me a piece of advice, Mrs. Williams.
Eboni K. Williams [00:19:49] Yeah, I think it’s a great decision, first of foremost, which is already controversial in this, you know, student loan area. Go to law school, apply for as many grants and scholarships as possible. If you do halfway decent on your LSAT, you get some pretty good grades and you Black. There’s no excuse why you should not get some money. That aside, it is an incredibly flexible degree. Let me tell you what I mean, Christina. You don’t have to go to law school and spend your career practicing law. In fact, most of my law school classmates, Black or otherwise, no longer practice. Some do. Some some love it. Some of my law school kind of not at my law school, but legal peers like the great Chris Stewart. Chris Chestnut, they’re they’re icons of the game at this point. I tip my hat to them. But many of us are executives and doing fantastic in media. Many, many, Christina, are executives in business. Many are executives in real estate. Many are in the academic capacity at this point. And teaching at law schools across the country. So I support a legal education and a law degree, specifically because of the variety of credibility and professional opportunities that you can avail yourself to with that particular degree.
Host Dr. Christina Greer [00:21:07] Absolutely. All right. So, listeners, if you’re thinking about law school and you heard it from Ms.. Williams, it’s a flexible degree. Okay. Last question. You ready?
Eboni K. Williams [00:21:16] Yeah, I’m.
Host Dr. Christina Greer [00:21:16] Okay. After becoming the first African-American student to graduate from the UNC School of Law. They went on to become North Carolina’s first African-American chief justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court. Who were they.
Eboni K. Williams [00:21:33] Is that Cheri Beasley? No.
Host Dr. Christina Greer [00:21:35] No. She’s currently running and I believe she’s the first Black woman.
Eboni K. Williams [00:21:39] Right.
Host Dr. Christina Greer [00:21:40] Yes. Of the North Carolina North Carolina Supreme Court. She’s currently running for U.S. Senate in North Carolina. This is Henry Frye.
Eboni K. Williams [00:21:49] Oh, yes. Judge Frye. Yes, yes, yes. Yes.
Host Dr. Christina Greer [00:21:53] Henry Frye. So he’s born in 1932, graduated from North Carolina and with honors in 1959. After law school, he was the first African-American elected to the General Assembly in the 20th century and was appointed to the North Carolina Supreme Court in 1983. And he served as chief justice from 1999 to 2001. And so did you ever get to meet Justice Frye?
Eboni K. Williams [00:22:16] Never got to meet Judge Frye. But I do believe I crossed paths with some of his family, Christina, because there’s some something on campus that is named in Judge Frye’s honor. I don’t know if it’s I don’t know if it’s a residence hall. I don’t know what it is. But something’s named after Judge Frye, and there’s a there’s a memorial to to him on campus. I know he’s a very big deal. And a legal giant. And a cultural giant, for sure.
Host Dr. Christina Greer [00:22:40] Mm hmm. And especially in the state of North Carolina and really laying a foundation for so many future generations of lawyers and legal scholars. Okay, I know you’ve got to get out of here, but I just have a few more quick questions from the bonus round. You ready?
Eboni K. Williams [00:22:53] Yes. Yes.
Host Dr. Christina Greer [00:22:54] Okay. I can’t wait to hear your responsees. Okay. Here we go. Bounce music or New York rap?
Eboni K. Williams [00:23:02] New York Rap.
Host Dr. Christina Greer [00:23:04] Mary J. Blige or Janet Jackson?
Eboni K. Williams [00:23:06] Janet Jackson. 1,000% over. .
Host Dr. Christina Greer [00:23:13] Ooop. Hot Takes!
Host Dr. Christina Greer [00:23:14] Who has better food, New Orleans or New York?
Eboni K. Williams [00:23:15] New Orleans. No questions asked that we taught them how to cook.
Host Dr. Christina Greer [00:23:19] Who are you going to come back so we can just take off these hearings and get to talking? Well, when you tell someone you’re around the corner. How long does it take you to get there?
Eboni K. Williams [00:23:29] Oh, me? About 30 minutes. Clearly, you already know that. Yes.
Host Dr. Christina Greer [00:23:38] I think there might be a conservative estimate. Listeners. What do you say? Do you say “I’m up the street or down the road?”
Eboni K. Williams [00:23:45] Up the street?
Host Dr. Christina Greer [00:23:47] And last but not least, The Jeffersons or Good Times.
Eboni K. Williams [00:23:51] The Jeffersons. I’m actually not here for Good Times. It’s a little too, little too sand boat for me. The later seasons.
Host Dr. Christina Greer [00:24:00] Norman Lear has apologized and he recognizes that he went way off the deep end on that one. Well, Eboni, listen, I’m so glad you decided to spend some time with us here at Blackest Questions. Thank you so much, not just for joining us, but for what you’re doing for the culture and really putting yourself out there for Black women and Black female representation in all facets inside and outside of a legal office.
Eboni K. Williams [00:24:23] Oh, thank you, Christina. And now this is my honor. I love the format of this show. It’s fun, but it is extremely enriching. I learned a lot today, which is always a really big treat. And I look forward to a glass of wine and doing some more of fabulous things with you.
Host Dr. Christina Greer [00:24:38] Yes. We might have to do a recording with some with some vino. I want to thank Eboni Williams for joining us today, and I want to thank you all for listening to Blackest Questions. This show was produced by Cameron Blackwell, Richard White and Camille Cruz. To get more information on the show and many podcasts like it, download theGrio at and tell a friend to tell a friend and share it with everyone you know. The Blackest Questions is a product of theGrio Black Podcast Network.
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