Grammy Award Winner and former member of Sweet Honey in the Rock
Daughter of a Baptist preacher named Edgar from Seneca, SC and Gladys from Birmingham, Alabama, Yasmeen was raised in Washington, DC. Her community was the African American Baptist Missionary Gospel Church. There, her training in expressing herself began. Yasmeen recalls being chosen by vocal music as a toddler. Her three sisters, Elizabeth, Ernestine, and Ossie, two bothers Edgar and Alphonso even her mother and father all sang weaving a tapestry of generations of black music genres in one household. Her dad loved quartet, blues, work songs, slave songs, ring shouts and quartet. He mom taught her spirituals, religious children's songs, and hymns. Her oldest sister Elizabeth loved anthems, Ernestine loved Motown, Ossie loved gospel, Eddied loved R&B, Alphonso loved all genres of religious music.
Pulling all of this together for Yasmeen was her cousin Shirley Ables. In Yasmeens family the Men sang with the Men and the women sang with the women. So her aunt Vara Simpson and sister to her father had a singing group called the Service Gospel Singers. The seal taught pianist for the service Gospel Singers was Shirley Ables who took on Yasmeen, her sisters and two cousins Brenda and Sandra (Coosie) in an unconscious attempt to form a gospel music family franchise called The Spiritualettes.The Service Gospel Singers” were the first black gospel singers to sing at the international worlds fair in New York. Shirley Ables went on to be inducted int the gospel hall of fame, and now Yasmeen, a Grammy Award winner. Yasmeen states that fame does not always follow you just because you win covetous awards but the secret is to continue no matter what. If this is your life work and your power love then never give up.
Her first radio appearances were on WOOK Radio.
Her first gospel stage were shared with likes of the Caravans and Richard Smallwood was Union Hall in DC
She received harmonic training from Rev. Cleavant Derricks author of the hymn 'Just A Little Talk with Jesus', the Vermont Ave Baptist Church in Dc and the National Baptist Convention Choir of Dc & vicinity. She was also trained in gospel by Professor Henry Mansfield and Sis. Dorothy Davis, both of 2nd New St Paul Baptist Church where her father was pastor and many other great gospel singers attended such as Caroline White, Queen Esther Young, Donna Watson, and James Fox of the renowned Redeeming Souls, with brother gospel music arranger William Dixon and the DC Aires quartet. Yasmeen dads group was called The Bright Star Quartet. One of the members of the Bright Star Quartet was the father of the NBA basketball player and now mayor Dave Bing
According to Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagon, oral historian, gospel music scholar, and founder of Sweet Honey In The Rock, Yasmeen is a prolific gospel artist who has permanently affected the music of the group Sweet Honey In The Rock. Dr. Reagon included Yasmeen’s original lines to one of her songs entitled “My Way” (Compositions, p.23) as a salute to Yasmeen’s virtuosity. Mike Joyce of The Washington Post wrote “…there was no mistaking the power and beauty of Yasmeen’s voice – a strong, soulful alto that could be called lusty if it didn’t reveal its gospel roots so readily. Her phrasing too was a treat to hear, wonderfully pliable and often streaked with melisma flourishes…the singing transcended the songs and left one wishing to hear more of it.” Richard Harrington from the Washington Post said this of Yasmeen’s genius as a lyricist and vocal arranger: “The readings of the church standards are excellent, but the most memorable moments come in Sweet Honey’s introduction of two stunning West African songs “When I Die Tomorrow,” uncovered at a Baptist church in Liberia and re-arranged by Williams, is a compulsive swirl of polyrhythms and congregational communion.”
While traveling and singing internationally with Sweet Honey, Yasmeen transferred from Spelman College to Bowie State College in her senior year. She was allowed to finish her Bachelor's Degree in English "on the road" mentored by Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagon. These experiences constituted the beginnings of an arts/academic career and the formulation of Yasmeen's philosophy on the dynamic nature of education, which is education is artistic, social, integrative, and reciprocal." The reciprocity of education can never be advanced solely from teacher but student to teacher as well, and it is almost impossible to teach any subject without the inclusion of some form of the arts. It is not only the best way to receive an education but Yasmeen believes it is the "blessed" way. The popularity of her style and gospel lyricism grew tremendously during her time with Sweet Honey. She thrilled audiences nationally and internationally sharing the stage with such notables as Rosa Parks, Harry Belafonte, Betty Friedan, Holly Near, Pete Seeger, Odetta, The Freedoms Singers, Joan Baez, Meg Christian, Beverly Guy-Sheftall, Angela Davis, Ntozake Shange, Oprah Winfrey, Billie Avery, Ruby Sales, Bruce Springsteen, Chaka Khan, Maya Angelou, and conducted an a cappella song styles workshop for poet emeritus and English Professor Nikki Giovanni's English classes at Virginia Tech University entitled "Spirituals: The Sacred Trust". Yasmeen has opened for many other notables on the secular and sacred stage. As writer Mike Joyce puts it, "Opening for Oscar Brown Jr., was the local singer best known for her work with Sweet Honey in the Rock. Her rich alto voice produced some sumptuous chest tones and silvery highs as she moved from a gospel tune to songs composed by Billie Holiday and Bob Dylan." The Washington Post expressed similar sentiments: "The evening’s real delight, though, was Yasmeen, who is married to Majors. She possesses a remarkably expressive voice, capable of dark sensuous moods and free-soaring flights. Her richly melisma phrasing made even overtaxed pop ballads like "Bridge Over Troubled Water" ring with emotion."
Yasmeen is currently a member of Christ The King Church, under the spiritual leadership of Pastor Marion Sailor "Pastor Mimi".
see Wikipedia Yasmeen Betty Williams