It is with a heavy heart that we share news of the passing of Shannon Williams, sex worker rights activist extraordinaire, dedicated mother, bodacious babe, and beloved friend. Shannon passed away unexpectedly from a brain tumor on January 20, 2015. She was 48 and is survived by her three sons (ages 21, 9, and 7), for whom there is now a fund to assist them in their future. Shannon’s life was thrust into the public spotlight in 2003 when her house was raided due to her occupation as a sex worker.
“Seventeen of Oakland’s Finest came crashing into my bedroom with their guns drawn,” she recalled. When the press found out that a Berkeley High School teacher had been arrested for prostitution, “it instantly became a national news story and blew my life to pieces,” Shannon added.
Shannon’s case was a catalyst for organizing in the Bay Area. Shannon became a fierce sex workers rights activist, and was a key contributing member to SWOP-Bay Area, right up until the time of her death. Shannon helped her peers in the sex trade by working at Saint James Infirmary, and serving on the Board of Directors for SWOP-USA.
Shannon was a powerful, inspiring, and exceptionally vibrant woman. We are devastated by the loss of her presence, but grateful for all of the energy she put towards creating a safer, less judgmental world for sex workers. We intend on carrying forth the important work that Shannon helped to champion, and will keep her lasting memory in our thoughts.