Dad of tennis stars writes about life, race and reality

Filed under SPORTS

Richard Williams shares experiences in ‘Black and White’

BY SAEED SHABAZZ
NNPA NEWS SERVICE

NEW YORK – Richard Williams, best known as the father of tennis champions Venus and Serena Williams, has written his first book. It isn’t about how to play tennis.

Richard and Serena Williams cheer for Venus Williams during her match against Conchita Martinez at the Family Circle Cup tournament match in Charleston, S.C. on April 18, 2004. (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER/MCT)

Richard and Serena Williams cheer for Venus Williams during her match against Conchita Martinez at the Family Circle Cup tournament match in Charleston, S.C. on April 18, 2004.
(CHARLOTTE OBSERVER/MCT)

“There are enough books out about tennis — tired of teaching tennis, tired of talking about tennis,” Williams told a standing-room only crowd at a mid-Manhattan Barnes & Noble bookstore on May 7, the day after the release of “Black and White: The Way I See It.”

“I wanted to write a book of encouragement; the importance of my life and who I really am,” the 72-year-old icon said proudly.

In the book, Williams looks back at the 2012 Wimbledon championship match, and how Serena had to overcome a life-threatening medical problem to reach the final: “That morning so far from the place I was born in Shreveport, Louisiana. Wimbledon, with its White rule and its traditions and its royalty, was the other end of the world. Yet, were things so very different? In tennis, just as in Shreveport, there was a crowd and I had often heard it grow ugly.”

“I still hear people calling me ‘nigger.’ I don’t know why people are calling it the ‘n’ word, call it what it is,” he told The Final Call in a quick interview granted by Williams.

Beaten by White men
Williams had been in New York City since May 4 promoting the book and was scheduled to travel by train to Philadelphia right after his May 7 book signing.

140522_dt_sports01b“My mother made me leave Shreveport because she was afraid I would get myself killed,” he said, doubling up in laughter. Born Feb. 16, 1942 to Julia Mae Williams, he was one of six children, and the only boy.

During his talk before the book signing, he spoke of being beaten by a White man at age five-and-a-half, because he dared to touch the man’s hand while giving him money and another beating by a White man at the age of eight. “The most important lesson from this was that my mother would never allow me to use White folks’ prejudice as an excuse for failure,” he said.

“From that I learned not to allow anyone to define how and what I would do in life,” he told The Final Call.

Saved man from lynching
Richard Williams also shared how one night he decided to dress up as a KKK member and attend a rally at the age of 9. They were getting ready to lynch a Black man.

“Well, I was able to get him out of there with my squirrel gun, and, believe me, I rode my bicycle faster than ever before. And that is the beginning of my thinking in Black and White,” he said.

Poem for Serena
In the book, Richard Williams shares a poem he wrote especially for Serena during her illness:
“Step forward so you can see
the light of day and know
you are capable of
conquering fear, defeating feelings of inadequacy,
and rising above life’s circumstances.
One who is able to prevail
Is a shining example of
power, strength, and confidence.
It’s just a matter of faith.”

This story is special to the NNPA from The Final Call.

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