As fans continue to mourn the unexpected death of Michael K. Williams last week, the anecdotes are plentiful. But few acknowledge his position as a de facto icon for Black queer people.

Williams rose to small-screen prominence for his portrayal of stick-up man Omar Little on HBO's The Wire. The character was known as a brutal, shotgun carrying thief who openly loved his male partner and took his grandma to church. Of course, gay Black male characters had made appearances on television before, but none had embodied the raw masculinity or street credibility that Williams’s character represented. Little wasn’t a diversity hire in a world of Baltimore gangsters, he was the boogeyman they feared. 

“Michael K. Williams was a god damn genius, a black queer icon who challenged the ideas of black masculinity at a time when it wasn't easy and a truly great dude. A huge loss. Somebody tell God, Omar coming,'' wrote Oscar-winning director Travon Free.