Williams sisters’ dad tells powerful story
By Norman (Otis) Richmond
After reading Richard Williams’ new memoir Black and White: The Way I See It, I thought about Black Uhuru’s song, Sponji Reggae. Williams is the “genuine character” that lead singer Michael Rose sang about.
If there is one word that captures Williams it is “driven”. Williams is the father of Venus and Serena Williams, two of the world’s greatest tennis players.
His autobiography is a must read for African youth. It is the story of the Shreveport, Louisiana- born Williams’ struggle against white supremacy.
When Williams was born on Feb.16, 1942, he may as well have been born in Johannesburg, South Africa. Williams was born a few months before Chris Hani, who was regarded as one of the most militant leaders of the African National Congress of South Africa.
Paul Mooney, who was also born in Shreveport, wrote in his memoir Black is the New White: “Shreveport, Louisiana. The deep, deep South. So deep the Confederates there keep right on fighting for weeks after the Civil War ends. Shreveport is where Jefferson Davis is running to when they catch his ass. One of the last die-hard outposts of the Old South.
“It was in Shreveport that Sam Cooke was jailed for trying to check in to a whites-only Holiday Inn,” Mooney continues.
Shreveport is also the birthplace of Black Panther Party Leaders Alprentice “Bunchy” Carter, deputy minister of defence of the Southern California chapter, Raymond “Maasi” Hewitt, Minister of Education, and the late, famous defence lawyer Johnnie Cochran.
Unlike Carter, Hewitt, Pratt, Cochran and Mooney, Richard Williams remained in the apartheid South until he was 18. It is a miracle that he lived to document his life story. Williams points out: “Life was a battlefield, win or die.” He documents how he lost two of his childhood friends, Chili Bowl was killed by a white lady who hit him with her car and “just kept going.” Chili Bowl was eight and Williams was six.
A few years later, his second best friend Lil Man’s was found hanging from a tree with both hands cut off. He was suspected of stealing a white man’s pig.
The death of Lil Man helped Williams mature into an angry young man filled with rage. He says if he couldn’t get the white man’s respect, he dishonored him by stealing from him. He had no sense of guilt or remorse. At one point Williams even infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan. His episode with the Klan alone is worth the price of his autobiography.
Williams was personally subjected to violence. His nose was broken three times, his teeth were knocked out and he was beaten with sticks, bats and chains, not to mention how many times guns were involved.
Williams learned from his early years that to succeed you always had to have a plan. Consequently, having seen the money that young tennis players make, he developed a plan to raise two daughters to become world champions even before they were even born.
Venus was born on June 17, 1980. Serena was born Sept. 26, 1982. Richard Williams married Oracene Price from Saginaw, Michigan, who had three daughters by a previous marriage.
Williams worshiped his mother Julia Metcalf Williams who died in 1985. His mother picked cotton and raised him and his four sisters. Black and White: The Way I See It is part memoir and part a how-to guide on raising children. Williams’ 10-point plan for success, gained from his life experiences, should interest parents, youth and educators alike.
It is a must read for Africans and all oppressed people, especially the youth.
Richard Williams will be signing his book, Black and White: The Way I See It on Monday, Aug. 18, 5:30 – 6:30 p.m. at A Different Booklist, 746 Bathurst St. On Tuesday, Aug. 19, he will give a talk with a signing and reception at The Miller Lash House, 130 Old Kingston Rd., 6:30 – 8:30 p.m.