Terrie Williams

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' Terrie Michelle Williams (born May 12, 1954 in Mount Vernon, New York) is an American public relations strategist, author, inspirational speaker, therapist and philanthropist.[1]


In 1975, Williams graduated with a BA (cum laude) in sociology and psychology from Brandeis University. She received a Master’s of Science in Social Work from Columbia University in 1977 [1]

Early career

Upon obtaining her M.S., Williams took a job as a medical social worker at New York Hospital (now called Weill-Cornell Medical Center) counseling terminally ill, “at risk,” and physically challenged patients. It was here that she met and befriended jazz legend Miles Davis, who encouraged her to open her own business, which Williams eventually did.[2]

The Terrie Williams Agency

In 1988 Williams founded The Terrie Williams Agency (TTWA),[3] a public relations firm. Her first clients were Miles Davis and comedian Eddie Murphy. TTWA provides employee training and motivational speaking for various corporations, community-based organizations and universities. Williams also counsels on racial profiling, corporate brand stability and mental hygiene. Over the years, the agency has represented public figures such as Prince, Chris Rock, Janet Jackson, Louis Gossett Jr., the Reverend Al Sharpton, Sean “Diddy” Combs, MoNique, Ntozake Shange, and the late Johnnie L. Cochran. Corporate clients include HBO, Revlon, Time Warner, Essence magazine and Forest City Ratner Companies. The agency practices an ethos of social responsibility whereby its clients commit “to become integral partners in the ongoing health and well-being of the community it is reaching.”[4] Williams’ knowledge of and experience in the field of public relations has been referenced in textbooks,[5][6] business guides,[7][8] print editorials,[9] social media, and pop culture.[10][11] Since its creation in 1988, The Terrie Williams Agency has provided many of its services on a pro bono basis to underserved communities.

Battle with depression

In 2003 Williams suffered a severe bout of depression. She had sought therapy for the dysthymia she had endured since childhood, but had never been diagnosed with clinical depression.[12] Williams was forced to put her public relations career on hold as she recovered from the illness.

The isolation Williams felt coping privately with chronic depression inspired her to help establish social support and acceptance for others in similar situations, as well as build public awareness of the importance of mental health, particularly as it pertains to the African-American community. In a June 2005 interview with Essence magazine, “Depression and the Superwoman,”[13] Williams spoke candidly about the effects of depression. She specifically drew attention to the reluctance of African-Americans to seek treatment due to social stigmas against mental illness and a variety of other culturally-specific issues. Over 10,000 readers responded.

Since that time, Williams has become a mental health activist, lecturing across the country, encouraging members of the public to come forward and discuss their own personal experiences with others in communal settings. Williams was widely commended[14] for using her high profile to break a nationwide taboo that had previously rendered mental illness unacceptable, invisible and therefore largely untreated within African American communities. Black Pain was heralded as “a wake-up call, a conversation starter for the thousands, if not millions, of Black people who fight to make it through one day into the next.”[15]


Terrie Williams has authored four books. Her first, The Personal Touch: What You Really Need to Succeed in Today’s Fast-paced Business World[16] offered “an excellent primer on the basics of building and maintaining business relationships.”[17] The second book, Stay Strong: Simple Life Lessons for Teens[18] formed the basis of Williams’ non-profit Stay Strong Foundation. A Plentiful Harvest: Creating Balance and Harmony Through the Seven Living Virtues,[2] offers advice on how to parlay core values into sound business practices. Her most recent work, Black Pain: It Just Looks Like We’re Not Hurting,[19] examines the role of unaddressed mental and emotional illness in propagating physical disease, substance abuse, violent crime and broken families among African Americans.

Philanthropy and activism

In 2005, Terrie Williams founded the Stay Strong Foundation (SSF)—now dissolved. SSF worked to support, educate and inspire America’s youth through a series of programs and events that are designed to raise awareness of teen issues, promote the personal well-being of young people and enhance their educational and professional development. The foundation encouraged corporate and individual responsibility, developed educational resources for youth and youth organizations, provided and coordinated internships, set up mentoring opportunities, and facilitated visits by prominent individuals and business professionals to schools, libraries, youth organizations and group homes.

In March 2008, the Stay Strong Foundation launched the “Healing Starts With Us” campaign.[20][21] In 2010 SSF collaborated with the Ad Council and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to introduce a campaign entitled "Share Ourselves: Healing Starts With Us" [22] To date, the campaign has garnered $2.5 million in donated national advertising space and 11 million media impressions to significantly heighten awareness of the importance of mental and emotional health.

In October 2012, Williams was a featured speaker on mental health for World Mental Health Day.[23]

Awards and honors

  • In 1991 Williams was the first (and remains the only) woman of color to receive the New York Women of Communications Matrix Award in the category of Public Relations[24]
  • Public Relations Society of America /New York Chapter’s 1995 Phillip Dorf Mentoring Award[25]
  • In 1996, Williams was the first person of color to be awarded the Vernon C. Schranz Distinguished Lectureship at Ball State University[26]
  • 2006 Institute for the Advancement of Multicultural & Minority Medicine’s Eagle Fly Free Award[27]
  • In 2009 NAMI/FAMILYA of Rockland County recognized Williams’ extraordinary commitment to de-stigmatizing mental illness by giving her their Florence Gould Gross Award[28]
  • 2009 Dr. David Satcher Mental Health Trailblazer Award—Jackson State University (Southern Institute for Mental Health Advocacy, Research and Training)
  • 2009 The Citizens Committee for New York City Marietta Tree Award for Public Service
  • Ebony’s 2010 “Power 150” for Activism[29]
  • In 2009, Williams was listed among Woman’s Day magazine’s 50 “Women Who Are Changing The World”[30]
  • The National Alliance on Mental Illness of New York City (NAMI-NYC Metro) 2010 award Honoring Pioneering Women in Mental Health
  • 2011 Williams was named “PR Executive of the Year” at the MAAX Summit[31]
  • 2011 Heart & Soul Award honoree “For All You Do”[32]
  • 2011 Full Circle Health Award[33]
  • 2011 recipient of New Federal Theatre's 40th Anniversary Woodie King, Jr. Award[34]
  • 2011 Emmett Till Legacy Foundation’s “Woman of Courage” Award[35]
  • 2011 The Khary Orr Leadership Award—African American Heritage Parade Committee[36]
  • 2012 SCLC Women Drum Major for Justice Award[37]
  • 2012 National Association of Social Workers-NYC Social Work Image Award[38]
  • Williams was one of TheGrio.com’s 100 in 2013[39]
  • Terrie Williams was the 2013 Commencement Keynote Speaker for Metropolitan College of New York[40]


  1. 1.0 1.1 "Terrie Williams", The HistoryMakers
  2. 2.0 2.1 Williams, Terry (2002).A Plentiful Harvest: Creating Balance and Harmony Through the Seven Living Virtues (pp. 14-19) New York: Warner Books ISBN 0-446-52715-7
  3. terriewilliams.com
  4. The Terrie Williams Agency terriewilliams.com
  5. Guth, David; Marsch, Charles (2000).Public Relations, A Values Driven Approach (First Edition) New York: Pearson Higher Education ISBN 978-0205295746
  6. Menscher, Melvin (1998). Basic Media Writing New York: McGraw-Hill College ISBN 978-0697353689
  7. Rogers, Henry C. (1988). Rogers' Rules for Businesswomen: How to Start a Career and Move Up the Ladder New York: St. Martin’s Press ISBN 978-0312010812
  8. Hill, Napoleon; Ritt, Michael J. (1999). Napoleon Hill’s Keys to Positive Thinking: 10 Steps to Health, Wealth and Success New York Penguin / Plume ISBN 978-0525943846
  9. Szabo, Julia (August 1, 1994) “Rating the Gossips” New York Magazine (p. 26)
  10. Harris, E. Lynn (2002).Any Way the Wind Blows New York: Random House ISBN 978-0-385-72118-9
  11. George, Nelson (2001).Show and Tell New York: Simon & Schuster /Touchstone ISBN 0743204433
  12. "Faces of Depression: Terrie Williams” PBS.org
  13. Burford, Michelle and Terrie Williams (June 2005) ”Depression and the Superwoman” Essence (pp.152-155)
  14. Taylor, Susan L. Foreword. Black Pain: It Just Looks Like We’re Not Hurting by Terrie M. Williams (p. xix)
  15. Pinder, Shanene (Volume 3, Number 20 August 2009) “Black Pain: It Just Looks Like We’re Not Hurting (Review)” Journal of Healthcare for the Poor and Underserved
  16. Williams, Terrie; Cooney, Joe (1994). The Personal Touch: What You Really Need to Succeed in Today’s Fast-paced Business World New York: Warner Books ISBN 0-446-67158-4
  17. Coulson, Robert H."The Personal Touch (Review)"The CPA Journal Online
  18. Williams, Terrie (2002). Stay Strong: Simple Life Lessons for Teens. New York: Scholastic Paperbacks ISBN 0-439-12972-9
  19. -- (2008) Black Pain: It Just Looks Like We’re Not Hurting New York: Simon & Schuster ISBN 978-0743298834
  20. (March 14, 2008)"The Healing Starts With Us Campaign" blackgivesback.com
  21. "Terrie Williams and Celebs Launch Campaign" Essence.com
  22. Blank, Kristin (March/April 2010) “Stories That Heal Campaign on African Americans and Mental Health” SAMHSA.gov
  23. (October 10, 2012) "Terrie Williams to Keynote at UN's Mental Health Day" New York Amsterdam News
  24. “Matrix Hall of Fame”, New York Women in Communications
  25. 2013 Big Apple Awards Archive prsany.org
  26. ”Terrie Williams: Schranz Lecturer 1996” Vernon C. Schranz Distinguished Lectureship in Public Relations
  27. Annual Awards Benefit Gala "Saluting Survivors...Promoting Life" iamm.org
  28. "Honoring Terrie M. Williams upon the occasion of receiving the Florence Gould Gross Award from NAMI-FAMILYA of Rockland County" NY Senate Open Legislation Resolution J2555-2009
  29. "2010 Power 150” (December 2009 / January 2010) Ebony magazine
  30. (March, 2009) ”Women Who Are Changing the World” Women’s Day
  31. ”MAAX Award Winners for 2011 to Be Honored in Chicago August 1st” Target Market News
  32. "Boris Kodjoe Hosts Heart & Soul Awards June 17th-18th” What’s Hot Washington
  33. October 18, 2011 "Audrey’s Society Whirl: New York Center Gala Focuses on Mental Health Awareness” eurweb.com
  34. Gioia, Michael (April 18, 2011) ”New Federal Theater Gala to Honor Sidney Poitier, Ntozake Shange, Ruby Dee, Elizabeth McCann” Playbill.com
  35. ”Emmett Till Legacy of Hope: Loving from the Inside Out Features Terrie Williams”
  36. Scott, Howard J. (April 28, 2011) ”Terrie Williams Speaks at AAHPC Leadership Brunch” YouTube
  37. Tinuoye, Kunbi (April 5, 2012) ”Stars Turn Out for Drum Major Awards in Atlanta” TheGrio.com
  38. {"NASW-NYC: 2012 Annual Meeting Awardees”] naswnyc.org
  39. "TheGrio’s 100: Terrie M. Williams, Advocating for the Voiceless” TheGrio.Com
  40. Metropolitan College of New York (July 3, 2013)”Terrie M. Williams, 2013 Commencement Keynote Speaker” YouTube

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