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Honoring our Ancestor Cecil Williams

About the Altar

In African diasporic cultures, altars to ancestors are revered as sacred spaces that embody the essence of unconditional love, resilience, and cultural heritage. Each element on the altar plays a crucial role in honoring the ancestors and connecting the past to the present.

The rose quartz, symbolizing unconditional love, is a cornerstone of the altar, representing the enduring love and connection between the living and the ancestors. Ankara cloth represents the roots of African heritage, grounding the altar in the cultural legacy of Cecil Williams and the ancestors.

Water, the essence of life and a symbol of the earth, is placed on the altar to honor the ancestors’ connection to the earth and their role as stewards of the land. It is also offered as a symbol of purity and clarity, inviting the ancestors’ blessings and guidance. Flowers, representing the earth, symbolize growth, renewal, and the cycle of life. Fire/light is used to purify the space and invoke the spirits of the ancestors.

Images of Cecil Williams with the people he served and impacted are displayed prominently on the altar, reminding us of his dedication to community and justice for those who live in the margins and beyond. Wood, representing the earth, symbolizes growth and the interconnectedness of all living beings.

Community members may contribute to the altar and a larger communal piece through writing prompts, inspired by our Janice Mirikitani Theologian in Residence, Ramona Laughing Brook Webb and her poetic guidance further encouraging reflection and remembrance of Cecil’s teachings and legacy.

Highlights include the olive branches symbolic of peace. Gold and brass ornaments, symbolizing minerals, honor the ancestors’ wealth of wisdom and the richness of their cultural heritage.

The altar holds Cecil’s writings, which serve as evidence of his philosophy, Liberation ministry, and world contributions. Lights representing fire illuminate the altar and guide the spirits of the ancestors.

We display pride flags on the altar to honor Cecil’s commitment to inclusivity and his advocacy for LGBTQ+ rights. To honor Cecil’s work with the Glide Memorial Church and his dedication to social justice, we incorporate Glide’s Terms of Faith and Resistance.

Playing sound recordings of Cecil’s sermons and the Glide ensemble evokes the spirit of community and celebration. Those who find it hard to grieve in words can engage in a meditative practice using dashiki coloring book images. This offers a creative outlet to honor Cecil’s memory and legacy.

Together, these elements create a sacred space that honors Cecil Williams’ life and legacy, celebrates his contributions to the community, and connects the past to the present, inspiring future generations to continue his work for justice and equality.


  • Writing contributions will be used in poetry by Ramona. 

  • Writings will be tied to the Taylor gate by volunteers (Paula will lead).

  • Volunteers Needed to keep an eye on the table (Paula will work with the church staff to get this done).

  • Altar artifacts will be placed out on the Ellis side for community members to visit.