Featuring Dera Williams
Dera R. Williams lives, works and plays in the San Francisco Bay Area. A retiree of a local community college, she now mentors students in family history research. This Cali girl with Southern roots is a freelance writer and contributor to anthologies, journals and academic encyclopedias and is her family historian. Dera is co-author of the fiction book Mother Wit: Stories of Mothers and Daughters. She is completing a story collection about growing up in Oakland and a children’s book about Alzheimer’s disease. Her most recent publication can be found in the anthology Our Black Mothers, Brave, Bold and Beautiful.
We had the opportunity to interview author Dera Williams, whose essay “Not Shirley Temple Curls” appears in All the Women in My Family Sing. This is what we learned…
What inspired you to write your essay for this anthology?
I have been writing my childhood memories for several years and this story about identity and self-love was special to me. I felt this story would be a good addition to the anthology, so I polished it up and submitted.
What is one of the most memorable challenges you have experienced as a woman of color in the twenty-first century?
One of the most memorable challenges I have experienced was over the last ten years. As my city, Oakland, California became gentrified, I found I was feeling uncomfortable in certain spaces whereas before I had always felt free and had a sense of belonging. I was carefully navigating and monitoring my movements and actions. Finally, I’d had enough of this displaced feeling and began to reclaim my spaces. I will not let any group or situation make me feel I do not belong anywhere in the city of Oakland.
Give an example of women’s roles in today's social justice movement.
Women get it done. I have had the opportunity to attend a few social justice workshops in the last few months and most of the facilitators have been women. They are intelligent, give excellent training and believe in doing the work. Women have always been on the frontline whether it was Harriet Tubman and her pursuit of freedom, Fannie Lou Hammer as she protested for basic human rights or our Honorable Congresswoman Barbara Lee who stood alone against war.
What have your experiences been in leadership as a woman of color?
I have been in a leadership position and often felt that white women and men, and even a few black men have been condescending. It used to make me feel intimidated and unsure but because I knew the goal to be reached and how to do it, I gained the respect of my peers.
What do you most hope readers will take away from reading this book?
I hope all readers will embrace our stories and be encouraged and enlightened by them. I especially want young women and girls of color to realize that women of color have always been about the business of demanding our places in society and that they, these young women become emboldened and prepared to step into our shoes to continue the work. Some of the storytellers have had some hard knock lives but have persevered and are still here standing, surviving and achieving their dreams.