A young social justice activist who has battled homelessness, mental health struggles and bullying, has been selected to carry the Queen’s Baton ahead of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.

Joshua Williams has been chosen by the University of Birmingham to be an official batonbearer during the Queen’s Baton Relay.

The 24-year-old will be carrying the baton as it concludes its international journey in the West Midlands before the launch and opening ceremony for the Games.

Joshua Williams was selected to carry the Birmingham 2022 baton by the University of Birmingham Lensi Photography / I Am Birmingham
Joshua Williams was selected to carry the Birmingham 2022 baton by the University of Birmingham

A former student and graduate of the university, Joshua is one of a group of students hand-picked for their “willingness to take on a challenge and for making a positive impact in the community”.

According to the university, Joshua – who was President of the Guild of Students during his time at the institution – was selected for championing reform.

“Joshua Williams uses his own experience to advocate for radical care-leaver reform.

“Joshua is a game changer because of the impactful and long-lasting advocacy work he did for Care Leavers and Estranged Young People at the University while he was Guild of Students President.

“His vision & leadership enabled the University to launch Care Leaver Open Day, change access to University accommodation to a 52-week basis for the duration of a Care Leaver’s course and reformed Care Leaver literature to be distributed to students, schools and local authorities.

“As a care leaver himself, Joshua used his own experience to be a catalyst for change, and the hugely impactful effects are being felt years later. Congratulations Joshua, what an incredible legacy you’ve left.”

Before graduating, Joshua had struggled with mental health illness, homelessness and bullyingLensi Photography / I Am Birmingham
Before graduating, Joshua had struggled with mental health illness, homelessness and bullying

Prior to joining the university, Joshua had struggled with mental health illness, homelessness and bullying as a teenager. He used his experiences to set up non-profit enterprises to support those in similar situations, raising money for mental health charity Mind and organisations working with young people around body image issues.

“I’m delighted to have been selected by the University of Birmingham for my work during my time as President of the Guild of Students. I worked significantly around care-leavers and wider participation and it’s something that I continue to this day.

“To be recognised as an honour in itself, but it’s something that I am extremely passionate about, and extremely happy that the university has such a commitment to more than anything. It’s honestly one of the greatest honours and greatest privileges of my life. I never anticipated this in all honesty, but I just want to make sure that I do my city, my family and my friends proud.

“Each batonbearer has their own story, their own experiences. And I really hope that that gets highlighted too because from what I’ve seen so far, there truly is such a fantastic representation from the city.”

Joshua is former President of the Guild of Students at the University of BirminghamJoshua Williams
Joshua is former President of the Guild of Students at the University of Birmingham

Joshua has also used his confidence building skills to inspire refugees, asylum seekers and individuals from marginalised groups to speak for themselves, facilitating training workshops in partnership with Migrant Voice.

“It’s important to celebrate the migrant communities that made Birmingham and this country what it is today, and it’s celebrating them as well, also understanding a lot of the injustices these communities still face. It’s okay to celebrate them. It’s okay to champion but we also need to take ownership over the history and the context behind it as well and how that is playing into an impact today. And I feel as we celebrate the Commonwealth Games, we need to make sure that distinction is very, very clear.

“I feel like the Commonwealth is all about balance. As I said it’s important to be able to celebrate the accomplishments and achievements of the communities within the Commonwealth and be able to ensure that they are champion on a global stage as supported and listen to their voices elevated to the highest level.

“However, we also understand the kind of historical and contextual references of the Commonwealth, what it means, how we got to where we are today, and make sure we are supporting these communities both in Birmingham, the UK and the entire global spectrum as well.”

Joshua Williams is a staunch supporter of LGBTQ+ human rightsJoshua Williams
Joshua Williams is a staunch supporter of LGBTQ+ human rights

He has additionally been a staunch campaigner for human rights, and continues to advocate for Black Lives Matter and LGBTQ+ inclusivity.

“The Birmingham gay community has so much to offer and it’s really exciting that it’s going to be seen on a global stage as well… It’s really incredible that it’s going to be elevated to the highest levels to be enjoyed by participants from all across the world, but specifically to the Commonwealth athletes that are coming into the city.

“It’s really an exciting opportunity to be able to meet like-minded individuals that have shared similar experiences, similar struggles, be able to learn from them, or be able to most importantly support them with a facet of their identities that can often be overlooked and kind of pushed to the side. So I want us to celebrate that in all of its glory is really spectacular and I’m very glad that initiatives such as Pride House really hones in on that.

“I think honestly, it’s an incredible opportunity for Birmingham to see international sporting legends coming to Birmingham to be able to not only compete but enjoy what the city has to offer. It’s fantastic to see.

“I’m forever grateful to the University for working in partnership with me during my time at the Guild of Students to enhance the support given to our care-experienced students. To see this work not only continue, but grow and evolve, makes my heart swell with pride!”

WATCH | Joshua Williams on being a part of Birmingham 2022:

Joshua Williams will be carrying the Queen’s Baton on Tuesday 26 July in Castle Bromwich at 9am from Chester Road in B36 through to Over Green Drive in B37.

Celebrating Black excellence, inspiration, history and heritage in Birmingham and the West Midlands, from 'I Am Birmingham' news and features.
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