They Will Build No Monuments to My Mother’s Memory

Willa Mae Williams will not have her name engraved anywhere in the National Museum of Black History and Culture. There will be no statue of her. In fact, she will receive no individual recognition for her grand achievements over the ninety-six years she was here in this world. But for me, she is the real heroine as was her husband, Bill Williams who passed in 1996, twenty years before she left on September 28, 2016.

You see, Willa Mae sought no glory in this world. She led no causes, didn’t march in any of the civil rights protests in the 1960’s. Instead, Willa Mae dedicated her life to raising her children, being a great mother and a dedicated wife. Despite her absence from the marches and the fact that there will be no monuments built in commemoration of her life, she was the foundation of the Black culture in the roles she so magnificently fulfilled. But she was no different than millions of other Black women, who quietly went about living their lives, raising their families and trying to make this a better place to live, despite the myriad of obstacles they confronted in some of the most turbulent years following the eradication of slavery.

weddingdressAs a young girl of thirteen, she participated in what has come to be known as the great migration of Blacks out of the South and up North. Evidently around 1933 while still living in Harrell, Arkansas, some European American woman saw my mother and told her grandmother, “Oh that is such a cute little n****r, I think I want to own her.” Sound rather incredible. But you can rest assured those kinds of things happened in a back country village like Harrell, a place that no longer exists. That’s all her grandmother had to hear, because within weeks they were out of Arkansas and arrived in Saginaw, Michigan, a small General Motors town, one hundred miles north of Detroit. It is there in 1936, she met a young, handsome man, Bill Williams, who was born and raised in Saginaw. He asked Willa Mae’s mother if he could take her to the movies on one bright Sunday afternoon and she told him yes. The next year, he asked her mother if he could take Willa Mae’s hand in marriage. The answer again was yes and on June 6, 1937, they were united as husband and wife and the rest is history.

They remained married for 59 years, raised four children, two boys and two girls. In the true meaning of the word, they became one in love. It was because of Willa Mae’s commitment to her children that we all went on to make her proud of our accomplishments. I completed all the work for a Doctorate Degree from Indiana University, worked as a Legislative Aide to Senator Birch Bayh and Congressman Parren Mitchell, helped establish the African American Studies Minor at University of Texas at San Antonio, and have written four novels, ghost written four autobiographies and edited two anthologies. My sibling’s accomplishments are similar in achievement to mine. And we owe this success to a young girl who only finished the eighth grade in formal education.



ess14750962011801There is something very special about the Black mother in America. She has carried such a burden but has handled it with grace, love and dignity. Many of the mothers in Willa Mae’s generation didn’t have college degrees and often not high school diplomas. But they had a special sense of knowledge and understanding about the trials and tribulations of this life, and desperately tried to pass those qualities onto their children.  Over the centuries, from the slave mother giving birth to a child knowing the misery they would confront, to the contemporary mother trapped in a web of poverty also knowing the struggles their child will confront, these matriarchs of the race have never failed to provide us with an everlasting love. And that is exactly what Willa Mae provided to me, my brother and two sisters. And for that love I will always appreciate, respect and love her.

My mother, Willa Mae Williams has gone on to be with her husband, but not for another 59 years like they spent together here on earth but instead for eternity.


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A POX on Both Their Houses

In a recent Reuters Poll conducted between March and June 2016, 16,000 European Americans were interviewed regarding their perceptions of African Americans. The poll was a result of both political candidates for President throwing negative comments at each other, regarding their positions on racial issues. Donald Trump has called Hillary Clinton a bigot because of her failure to support any meaningful change for Blacks. And Hillary Clinton accused Trump of normalizing white nationalism, and his failure to reject outright support from racist David Duke.

The European Americans involved in the poll were divided between those who support Trump and the ones supporting Clinton. Both groups were asked the identical questions, and the results are staggering.

32% of Trump supporters viewed Blacks as less intelligent than whites.

40% of Trump supporters viewed Blacks as more lazy than whites.

44% of Trump supporters viewed Blacks as more rude than whites.

49% of Trump supporters viewed Blacks as more violent than whites.

46% of Trump supporters viewed Blacks as more criminal than whites.

Now we might argue that these statistics are not that surprising coming from Trump supporters, but what makes this poll so frightening is when the same questions were asked of Clinton supporters.

22% of Clinton supporters viewed Blacks as less intelligent than whites.

25% of Clinton supporters viewed Blacks as more lazy than whites.

30% of Clinton supporters viewed Blacks as more rude than whites.

31% of Clinton supporters viewed Blacks as more violent than whites.

32% of Clinton supporters viewed Blacks as more criminal than whites.

When we remove the Trump/Clinton factor and combine the two groups as one, it becomes very clear that a large percentage of European Americans’ perception of Black Americans is anything but acceptable. This absolutely staggering arrogance from a race of people that have no right to make such assumptions, is overwhelming. When we view each of these characteristics over time, it becomes very clear that European Americans suffer from a serious case of hubris.

These findings are so ludicrous I shouldn’t bother to even respond. But at some point, you begin to seriously wonder for how long can these distortions of reality continue to exist within the minds of European Americans? Are they so narcissistic that they actually believe their perceived superiority over Blacks in each of the listed categories? Probably not one of the 16,000 could come close to matching the intelligence of a Dr. W. E. B. Du Bois, Dr. Ralph Bunche, Dr. Cornell West, Johnnie Cochran, President Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison, and the list of brilliant African Americans could go on for page after page.












The perception that Blacks are lazier than European Americans would be laughable if it wasn’t so pathetic. African Americans have always been hard working men and women. How do you think it was possible for slave owners to spend the afternoon drinking mint juleps, and at night raping Black women if the African American wasn’t doing all the work? After slavery, the same pattern continued under share cropping. Because of a skewed economic system in which most of the wealth and land has accrued to European Americans, Black Americans have always had to work harder for less economic gain in this county. Our ancestors had to, “make a way out of no way.” They worked longer hours for less reward but never gave up on life. And work, we have for generations.

colin-kaepernickCan someone please explain to me how you measure rudeness? Who determines when an individual is being rude? I guess Sandra Bland was being rude when she refused to put out her cigarette in her own car. I guess San Francisco 49er quarterback Colin Kaepernick is being rude because he refuses to stand for the National Anthem. Maybe Tommie Smith and John Carlos were also being rude when they held up gloved clinch fists, while the National Anthem was being played at the 1968 Olympics. Or maybe Muhammed Ali was rude, tossing his Gold Medal in the river when he returned from the 1960 Olympics and was so disgusted with how his people were being treated. It might be something much simpler than that. We no longer tip our hat to white folks when we pass them on the street, or don’t bow our heads when coming in contact with a white woman. And we no longer say “yes suh, yes ma’am, when responding to some European Americans question. And we have the nerve to get on the bus and sit wherever we want, instead of waiting for European Americans to board first and take their seat. The same holds true for trains and airplanes.

The category dealing with violence was the most shocking of all. The pogrom of Native Americans, the slaughter of millions of Africans in the middle passage from Africa, the brutal treatment of Blacks during slavery and the incredible large number of lynching of Blacks, Hispanics and yes some European Americans (they lynched their own people) makes a mockery of the findings in this category. European Americans undoubtedly rank at the very top of the list of violent people in modern civilization.

Finally, there is no worst crime in the history of civilizations than stealing someone’s freedom. It is estimated that up 25 to 50 million Africans were taken from their homes and forced on slave ships, where approximately half died before they reached the shores of America. That was murder and murder is a crime. And if that is not sufficient to establish that no race has committed more crimes than European Americans, then the beating, raping, and often killing of African Americans during and after slavery as well as the shooting and killing of over 130 Blacks in the first six months of 2016 by the police, should be. How about the slaughter of innocent Native Americans over the centuries, based on the concept of “white man’s burden,” or “manifest destiny” as additional proof?


Under the concept of hubris, an individual (or a larger body of people) will deflect their own insecurities and weaknesses to another person or body of people. That is exactly what European Americans have done for decades, and usually the recipients of those insecurities have been Blacks. The findings in the study done by Reuters proves that same practice still exists. My larger problem is that these people make up a substantial percentage of those who support the two primary presidential candidates. And because they do and I am not sure the candidates care about these perceptions among their followers, borrowing from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliette, I say, “A pox on both their houses.”

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Lucky or a Blessing: Fortunate or a Miracle

Usually my essays are directed at cultural and/or political subject matter, but for this one I plan  to deviate and touch on a subject more of a spiritual/religious nature. Religion is a subject matter I usually do not care to delve into, however what I plan to share with you all is so compelling I have no choice.  Let me begin this journey with an acknowledgement of two worlds, one dominated by sectarianism and the other secularism. Certain terms with specific meanings are applicable to each of these variant worlds.

What I am about to share with you, those in the secular world would claim I was “fortunate” or “lucky.” While those who lean toward religions would counter with the claim that I was “Blessed” and part of a “Miracle.” Once I share with you my journey, you can decide what fits you, according to your belief system. The very fact that I am compelled to deviate from my themes and write this piece, explains where I fall between the worlds. Here is the story and you can decide.

Approximately two years ago, I began to suffer from severe back and leg pain. Initially, I refused to go to the doctor and instead just took a bunch pain pills such as Motrin, Ibuprofen, Alleve and Advil. I did this for most of 2015 and into the second month of 2016. Finally, the pain became so excruciating that I decided to go to our family doctor for an examination. After explaining my situation to him, he immediately concluded that I was suffering from what is called Spinal Stenosis.  He suggested that I get an MRI to confirm his findings.

Now there is no way they were going to roll me inside a tube with no room to move. I suffer from claustrophobia and wouldn’t last for a half-hour in that confined area. But that natural instinct we all possess told me I had better do it, because I needed the confirmation. Somehow I mustered up the nerve to crawl into that machine, and the technician instructed me to breathe in and breathe out for the next half hour as technology examined what was happening on the inside of my body.

One day later, my family doctor received the results of the examination. He called me and said I needed to get into his office right away. The next morning as I sat on one of those long bed like contraptions in every doctor’s office, he told me that in doing the exam for Spinal Stenosis they discovered a mass growth in my left kidney. He immediately referred me to an Urologists and after additional tests, the doctor informed me that I had Type 1 Renal Cell Carcinoma in just the one kidney. There were no signs of any additional cancer and they could surgically remove the small growth.

On August 4, I had the surgery and now have pretty much recovered. I don’t have to go back for a follow-up for six months. When my physician walked into the room after the surgery, he said, “You are a very lucky man and quite fortunate. We hardly catch this cancer in such early stages, because it gives the person no signs that it is working its ugly and deadly deed within the kidney. Usually, patients don’t know they have the tumor until it has progressed to much more dangerous stages. In its later stages, this cancer spreads from the kidney to the liver, lungs and eventually the brain.

white-doves-psd16781That brings me back to my earlier statement regarding being fortunate and lucky, or part of a miracle and a blessing. Those in the secular world will opt for the former and I tend to lean toward the latter. Here is my reasoning. There is a higher source in the universe, God, Allah, Yahweh or Jehovah, according to your cultural upbringing, that sent me a message that I needed to get to the doctor so that the growth could be detected. He sent that message through the pain in my back. Remember, the cancer gives you no signals that it exists in the early stages. If no pain in my back, I wouldn’t have gone to the doctor and therefore no detection of the cancer until it had progressed.  Furthermore, even though the MRI concentrated on the spinal area, it was able to detect the growth in my kidney due to the proximity of your kidneys to the spine.

I am thoroughly convinced that the God I believe exists as the higher power, sent me a miracle when He planted that pain in my back and delivered a blessing when the doctors were able to remove the growth in the kidney. It wasn’t luck or simply being fortunate or just the randomness of fate. That happens when you hit the jackpot at the casino or win the lottery. Mine was much greater than something that simple. My life was extended through a miracle from God, and a blessing He had for me. Why He intervened to save my life, I don’t know. Maybe it’s because He wanted me to know that my mission on His behalf, here on earth, was not quite over yet. Part of that mission was for me to write this post about how God works in all of us and still is in the miracle making business. I stand as a true testament to His powers.


Filed under Black Culture, Black History, Black Men