Breaking Generational Patterns of Suffering

Justin Michael Williams is on a mission to bring mindfulness and meditation to teens in the U.S. cities most impacted by violence.

Photos by Jamaal

By his own admission, Justin Michael Williams is used to being the “token black guy” in the meditation community. 

“My mission was never ever to be a meditation teacher,” he explains. “It just ended up being, ‘Ok, this practice has changed my life, let me share it.’”

As a musician, public speaker and soon-to-be author, Williams says he considers his practice to be “the glue that holds my whole life together.” 

But before meditation would bring his life together, everything had to fall apart. 

Bringing Meditation Home

William grew up in Pittsburg, California, in a neighbourhood plagued by gun violence. At home, he witnessed his mother survive domestic abuse.

“My adaptation to all of it was to just be as smart as I could, so I could get out,” he says. 

He pushed himself to keep it together and focus on school, eventually winning a scholarship to UCLA. Yet when he finally left home, he found all of the painful emotions he had been pushing down for so long resurfaced, resulting in a damaging eating disorder. 

In seeking out help, he was directed to try yoga and meditation.

“Back then I didn’t know any black people doing meditation or yoga,”…