Vivian Williams

Light #26

Seeing the world through the eyes of equality.

Age: 83
From: Milwaukee WI
Classification: Other Light-Maker

(Lori Williams, on behalf of my mother, Vivian)
As to the light my Mother is to our family, she is our matriarch. She was the one who taught us to believe in God, be kind, the value a dollar, to strive to make a better future and make your dreams come true. My mother and father worked hard to move us out of the improvised neighborhood in which we could hear the gunshots of the 1967 Milwaukee race riots (I was just 7 years old); even after moving from Arkansas to escape prejudice.

My parents purchased a home in the Sherman Park neighborhood in which all faiths and people of different ethnicities lived in harmony. When we first moved to the neighborhood we – and the family across the street – were the only African Americans in the blocks surrounding our home. I will always remember how kind the neighbors on both sides of our home were to my sister and me. I remember how safe I felt from where we used to live. My mother led this move because she wanted a home for us, not just a house for us to grow up in. A place we felt safe and that could provide us a good education. Our new neighborhood was such a change from where we had moved. I went to school with people of all races and religions. Had play dates, shared toys, had birthday parties and shared my life with them; this enriched not only my life, but also the life of my family. By living in an integrated neighborhood I saw the world in a different light than I would have without the move.

We were faced again with a race riot in our Sherman Park neighborhood in August of 2016. This did not bring the fear to me as it did as a child. We have come a long way. My mother is the light that leads our family; the choices she made for our family enriched our lives and an understanding of the world. No, life is not always fair, but you have control of yourself. Be the best you can be despite your obstacles. Strive to educate yourself not only though school, but newspapers, TV, PBS, plays, speeches, history, etc.; concern yourself with what is happening not only to you but of all humanity. Help bring change to your world and the world at large.

My parents sacrificed for us to have all they did not have in the segregated south; their light, and sacrifices helped make us good stewards in this world. Society has a ways to go in race/religion relations, and although we must be mindful of mistakes of past generations, our light and our way of seeing the world through the eyes of equality is one of our greatest gifts from them.

Dedication: In memory of Henry Williams (spouse of Vivian)