Desoto County News

Acting and Autobiography, Northwest Mississippi Writers Guild Topics

Photo: Willie Williams of Olive Branch, a retired jailor/guard at Parchman Prison, visited the Northwest Mississippi Writers Guild for the first time to seek help in completing a writing project that her daughter was unable to finish because she died at 27 from AIDS. (Courtesy photo)

by Patsy McCrory

According to Kenneth Grant, a senior at Lake Cormorant High School, his theater experiences since his sophomore year have helped him “to come out of his shell.” “I learned to love it and now hope to be involved in theater at Northwest Mississippi Community College in Senatobia this fall,” he said.

Grant performed a monologue from Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein for the Northwest Mississippi Writers Guild Saturday, April 6, as the group continued their support of arts and literature for DeSoto County and surrounding areas.  “We want to promote the arts in all forms whether written or spoken word,” explained Northwest Mississippi Writers Guild Director Patricia Carter.

The soft-spoken young man with a broad smile and a commanding presence when he switched on his character mode took on a completely different, more agitated persona.

His scene revolved around a character named Elizabeth who was in a Courthouse defending a family servant friend blamed for the death of her cousin William. The final line was “If Justine is guilty, Judge, then there are none innocent.” Unfortunately, Justine is sentenced unfairly to death when Dr. Frankenstein’s creature was really the murderer.

Grant credits his theater teacher Mrs. Hardin for leading him to acting.  He gained inspiration from watching actor Sidney Poitier in such films as “Lilies of the Field.” He has performed in school productions such as “Emma! A Pop Musical” (a musical based on Jane Austen’s novel), “Game of Tiaras” (a comedy adaptation of King Lear), and “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” (a musical comedy). 

DeSoto County North Branch of the Mississippi Poetry Society Pres. William Hill invited Grant to do a reading at open microphone night at Hernando’s Coffee Central at 3:00 p.m. April 20th sponsored by the North Branch of the Mississippi Poetry Society.  

After the presentation, Director Carter invited all members and any aspiring authors to attend the May 4  meeting, which will be a free workshop on “Writing for Fun and Profit” conducted by Mississippi State Writers Guild Pres. Susan Marquez at 1:00 p.m. at the Olive Branch B. J. Chain Public Library. The Northwest Mississippi group will serve as hosts. There will be eight different workshops across the state provided by grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Mississippi Arts Council. Anyone interested in attending must register in advance by calling the library at 662-895-5900. 

During writing sharing time, William Hill shared his poem “Blessed Are Those Who Hunger.”

Retired parole officer Deb Camarata shared a poem entitled “My Name Is Little Tommy” written by her brother. She also shared a devotional she wrote entitled “Secret Place Devotion.” Patsy McCrory shared the introduction to her short story “The Square Peg Remembered.”

Northwest Mississippi Writers Guild Director Patricia Carter welcomed Lake Cormorant High School senior theater student Kenneth Grant to the April 6 meeting at the Olive Branch Library. (Courtesy photo) 

Willie Williams, a new Olive Branch member who is a retired jailer/guard at Parchman Prison, shared her daughter’s introduction to an autobiography she hoped to complete, but she died from AIDS before she could finish it. Her mother was seeking help to complete the project for her. Deidre Shanta Williams died in 1997 at the age of 27. She contracted AIDS in college from her boyfriend who knew he was HIV positive, but he did not tell her. She was salutatorian of her high school’s senior class, was in the Beta Club, was drum majorette of the Drew High School band, and was involved in many other activities including her church. She attended Tennessee State University as a pre-med student.

After learning she had contracted AIDS, in 1994 she began work at Nashville Cares as the African American Education Coordinator, sharing her story with youth across the nation to promote better life decisions.

“I want to finish the project my daughter started,” Williams explained after one of the other members read her daughter’s writing because it was emotionally hard for her to read it aloud herself.

In 1991 Deidre Williams herself wrote, “My life was changed forever in a manner that I had not even once considered. The road to becoming somebody suddenly became long and winding. What I thought was a straight shot turned out to be filled with detours, potholes, and alternate routes. I was HIV positive! How could this be? Didn’t God know I had too much potential to be HIV positive? I have never, not even once, used drugs. I am not promiscuous, but whenever my libido overrode my Christian rearing, my good Christian boyfriend was there to resolve the matter…after all, we are going to be married, and we are in love, and most importantly, we are monogamous.” 

“She found out he was an IV drug user, and he knew he was HIV positive, and he did not tell her. Her so-called Christian boyfriend was not such a great Christian after all,” her mother explained. “Deidre spent the next six years advising youth across the nation to make wise decisions. By 1997 we lost her before she could finish her autobiography. I want to do it for her, but I don’t know where to start.”

William Hill, a poet and a pastor, told her that it takes only two things to finish the project: a pen and paper. He gave those to Mrs. Williams and suggested that she begin writing her own memories of her daughter. “Order doesn’t matter yet. Just get your memories on paper, and we can help you organize it later,” he offered. 

She shared several magazine articles that were written about her daughter’s mission to inform young people of how to make good decisions in life. Through her job with Nashville Cares, she met several famous people on her journey.

Her daughter’s Celebration of Life obituary pamphlet contained a poem entitled “Miss Me and Let Me Go.” 

“…When you are lonely and sick at heart,

                          Go to the friends we know

                 And bury your sorrows in doing good deeds,

                 Miss me, and let me go,…”

Willie Williams is trying to do just that by finishing her daughter’s mission.

The next meeting of the Northwest Mississippi Writers Guild will be at 1 p.m. Saturday, May 4, for the “Writing for Fun and Profit” free writers workshop at the Olive Branch Public Library. Anyone wanting to share lunch with the group prior to the meeting should meet at Chicken Salad Chick restaurant at 5135 Goodman Rd., Suite 100, on the right side of Hobby Lobby at 11 a.m. Everyone is invited to attend.