Jessica “Ms. Jessica” Williams is a radio and media personality for Charlotte’s Power 98 radio station. She is the host of “Afternoon Vibez with Ms. Jessica” and the co-host on “The Morning Maddhouse”.
Born in New Orleans, La., and raised in Virginia Beach, Va., Ms. Jessica is known for her high energy and infectious personality whenever she gets behind a microphone.
Her journey into radio began as a college student at Johnson C. Smith University from 2000 to 2004. As a junior, she interned at Power 98. Two years later, after graduating, she was promoted to an on-air personality and hosted her first radio show from 2 a.m. to 6 a.m.
She has interviewed the likes of Vice President Kamala Harris, Lizzo, Kevin Hart, and Taraji P. Henson. She has also hosted several events for JCSU, UNC Charlotte, the Charlotte Hornets, BET, and the CIAA Basketball Tournament.
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Beyond the microphone, Ms. Jessica remains heavily involved in the community, particularly in creating programs to support and educate local youth.
Though she is known for her voice and outgoing personality, Ms. Jessica had to overcome a period of self-doubt and being silenced.
Today, she tells her story through a letter to her younger self.
You did it! Remember all those times that you would get in trouble for talking in school and had to eat lunch at the silent table? Well, guess what!? Now, they are paying you to talk every day to thousands of people at a time.
Your dream came true, and you are a radio personality for one of the top radio stations in the nation!
I know growing up in Virginia has been difficult for you. Being a young black female surrounded by people that look nothing like you, don’t share the same interests as you, and aren’t the least bit interested in you or your culture isn’t fun at all.
You feel you need to shrink to fit in, but that isn’t easy because your personality is big! Some days you will feel sad, confused, stuck, and angry. You have a fantastic family and support system willing to help, but this battle you face is personal.
You are constantly questioning yourself as if you aren’t good enough. Remember that you are! You will realize this the minute you step foot on the campus of Johnson C. Smith University. This will be a significant turning point in your life.
It is like a breath of fresh air. The same place that your mother, father, brother, grandparents, and even great-great-great grandfather all attended. That place, five hours from home, will soon become your new home. The exclusion and confusion you feel in Virginia are replaced by a feeling of inclusion and joy at JCSU.
It feels good. You love it so much that mom and dad must force you to come home for breaks.
You make friends from all over the world. You play tennis and join your sorority, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. Your senior year, you are named the President of the Student Government Association.
You develop relationships with mentors that stay right by your side well into adulthood. You begin your radio career. Jess, you interviewed the first female, Black Vice President of the United States!
You learn so much and enjoy school. Remember all those years of struggling to maintain at least average grades in school? That all comes to an end.
You do so well at JCSU that you graduate with honors with a degree in Communication Arts. Those struggles that you experienced growing up in Virginia Beach will quickly become a memory.
On the campus of Johnson S. Smith University, you are embraced, educated, and for the first time in a long time, you feel seen.
Though those times were hard, You needed it to become the woman you are today.
You needed to know what it felt like to be silenced and what it felt like to be heard. You needed to know what it felt like to be put in the back row and what it felt like to be front row center. You needed to know what it felt like to be told, “this is not for you,” and what it felt like to be told, “you are perfect for this.”
This world will try to hold you down. That’s how you feel right now in Virginia. But don’t worry. That little HBCU on Beatties Ford Road will teach you some important lessons.
I see you, Jessica. You can do anything. Be big!
You’ll learn that your struggles are shared by other young, black girls. This will push you to ensure that people everywhere feel seen and loved.
You do that through your work on the radio and your work in the community. It is your God-given mission, and you gladly accept.
Mommy always called you her “special New Orleans baby.” She always told you the people of New Orleans have a special spirit about themselves. They are free to live. That’s exactly what you do, Jessica.
You dance to the beat of your own drum. Don’t lose your “New Orleans” spirit. Continue to go after your dreams, and embrace people and new experiences.
When someone tries to make you feel like “Virginia Jessica,” you show them “Johnson C. Smith Jessica.”
This letter was edited for clarity and brevity.