Monday, January 12, 2015

"Black and White" by Richard Williams (2014)

I only took this book out of the library because I was interested in Richard Williams’ early life growing up in Shreveport, Louisiana in the 1950’s. He was born there in 1942 and by his teen aged years was a justifiably angry young black man with very little hope for a secure future. At least that’s the way it would’ve worked out if not for two things; a strong mother and a commitment to break away from the expected outcome of his life.

On that level the book delivered beautifully, living up to my every expectation. But the real surprise of this book was that it was able to hold my attention all the way through his daughters winning their celebrated championships.

But the meat of this book is in the fact that Mr. Williams; no relation to me; had the idea of creating the award winning sisters before they were even born. He was married at the time to the woman he loved and was raising 3 step children with her. Life was perfect. Many people do not realize that Mr. Williams was already a very successful businessman before his daughters became champions. He owned a cleaning service, a car wash and some real estate. Before he was 30 he had amassed around $800,000 before giving it all away.

Watching TV one day with his adopted daughters he saw a young woman winning $20,000 for a tennis match. He was instantly seized with the vision of raising 2 girls to become champion players. His adopted children were too old at the time to train adequately. So he proposed the idea of having 2 more daughters to his wife. Whether she believed in the idea, or was just enthusiastic about “trying” we will never know for sure.
Shortly after the girls were born, about a year and a half apart, Mr. Williams moved his family from a comfortable home in Long Beach to the crack infested neighborhood of Compton in Los Angeles. He wanted his daughters to be strong and independent, and to that end he showed them the prostitutes, the drug slingers, the gangs hanging on the corners; all in an effort to show them what they should aspire not to be.

He literally fought the street gangs to regain control of the local park tennis courts; which were on the “turf” of the gangs. He lost 10 teeth and had countless ribs cracked; and he even chased them down with a shotgun before finally winning.

In short; this is a book which will surprise you. If you think you know enough about Venus and Serena Williams from reading the headlines and the magazines; think again. Until you have gotten to know their father, you haven’t even scratched the surface.

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