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Tawana Williams — On The Move!
Tawana Williams has been blazing unchartered territory for
nearly 43 years. She is an internationally known motivational speaker, author of two books, gifted artist, typist, stylist, outstanding cook, entrepreneur and loving wife and mother. Mrs. Williams was born in 1963 in an NC hospital. However, unlike any of the other babies born there on that day, she entered this world with crippled legs … and without arms.
In Tawana’s latest book, titled, “Unarmed But Dangerous,” she explains how her mother’s bouts with chronic fainting spells and severe nausea during her pregnancy, lead a doctor to prescribed the drug, Thalidomide. Although the drug improved her mother’s condition, it had devastating repercussions on her fetus. After Tawana was born, her mother and grandmother provided and cared for her to the best of their ability. However, Tawana had special needs. So, her mother sought additional help from North Carolina’s Human Services Department. Incredibly, she was denied. Time and time, again.
One day, in a valiant act of love and resolve, Tawana’s mother sat down and wrote a letter to the President of the United States — John F. Kennedy. Vividly, she told her story. The Oval Office was greatly moved by what they read and responded in kind. She was instructed to take her baby to Cerebral Palsy Hospital in Durham, NC. There, Tawana lived and received intensive rehabilative services for the first four years of her life.
As Tawana’s spirit began to develop and evolve, so did her role as “conqueror.” Today, when she addresses her audiences, she candidly speaks about how she overcame the darkest periods of her life. Tawana Williams inspires, motivates, mentors, and masterfully shows others that they can do the things, they think they cannot. Said one, greatly-inspired youth after one of her presentations,
“I was really amazed at how she could do things with her feet, that I can’t even do with my hands. I learned to never give up; and that you can do anything you put your mind to.”
As part of the OnTheMove! Interview Series, eMediaCampaigns! spoke with Tawana about her mission, “different-ability,” love for God, and her latest book, “Unarmed But Dangerous.”
EMC!: Good morning, Tawana. Thank you so very much for meeting with us.
TW: Good morning, Fran. It’s a pleasure to be with you today.
EMC!: Would you share with us a little more about your background?
TW: Yes, I was born without arms and trained as a baby to use my feet just as others use their hands. I have completely overcome the adversity of being born without arms and turned from a being a victim, into becoming victorious!
EMC!: See, now I want to shout (laugh). I feel your joy, Tawana … Tell us, “A blessing and a curse.” In your opinion, does this statement have any validity?
TW: Yes it does, because, once I realized what I had, it didn’t matter to me. As a child, I felt that God had forgotten me, cursed me, and even forsaken me. You see, I have three sisters and have always asked God, “Why me? Why not them?” Today, I realize they could not have taken what I have taken, done the things that I’ve done, and gone through, and come out — victorious — like I’ve come out!
EMC!: Your latest book, Unarmed But Dangerous: “The Tawana Williams Story of Relentless Struggle and Ultimate Victory,” is scheduled to be released later this year. Could you explain what you mean when you use the word, “dangerous?”
TW: The “weapons” that I possess that are dangerorus — are my feet. I can do almost anything with them. I am an artist, poet, vocalist, wife and mother. I fed my own baby her bottle, braided her hair, bathed her, and even dressed her with my two, blessed feet.
Les Brown, the motivational speaker and author, wrote an awesome “Foreword” for my book, “Unarmed But Dangerous: The Tawana Williams Story of Relentless Struggle and Ultimate Victory.” He will also be promoting it. Please support the book. I am donating a portion of the sales to The Sharpe Health School for the Disabled in Washington, D.C. I attended the school in 1968 – 1974. So, my question is … “What’s your excuse?”
EMC!: Tawana, it’s my understanding that, you have more skills and talents than you shared earlier. For example, despite having no arms, you respond to, and send your own emails. And, isn’t it true that you type 35 words per minute … with your feet?
TW: Absolutely! I send — and respond to my own emails. And, I do type 35 – 40 words per minute — (laugh) with my feet! Actually, Fran, I did hide my talents for years because I was ashamed of all that I could do. But now, I am proud of what God has done, and what He continues to do, through me.
EMC!: At what point did you know that you wanted to become a motivational speaker?
TW: I knew that I wanted to become a speaker when I realized that so many of the people that I came in contact with were ungrateful, slothful, lazy, and always complaining about what they didn’t have. I felt I was the perfect one that should be complaining — but I wasn’t. I was using what I had. No excuse is acceptable.
EMC!: Tawana, I’ve heard you say: “The words, ‘I can’t’ are not an option.” What are the words or phrase which you would use, instead?
TW: “I can do all things.” These words are powerful to me because I’m not a quitter; I’m a winner. We all must use whatever we have. If I had started out saying, “I can’t” … I probably would not have made it. If you think you can’t; you won’t.
“Look what God has done through this woman. Tawana Williams is the most motivational person I know.”
EMC!: Who are the mentors who have made the biggest impact in your life?
TW: Many people have made a difference in my life, but, some very special people have blessed me more than they’ll ever know: My mentor, Les Brown; my friend and business partner, Dr. Stan Harris; my Life Coach, Arthur C. Doakes; Mr. Ken Brown (motivational speaker/author), and my awesome husband, Mr. Keither “Toby” Williams. These men have truly impacted my life.
EMC!: The Honorable, Judge Glenda Hatchett (from the TV series, Judge Hatchett), recently asked you for assistance during an intervention with a youth in her courtroom. Could you describe the experience?
TW: That experience was unbelievable! I’d never been a mentor in that capacity, so to speak. Although, I had helped many young people with issues. But, that experience showed me that there was another gift to offer the world. I’m blessed to have the opportunity to be Judge Hatchett’s interceptor. That is a day that I will never forget.
EMC!: You are one of the few professional speakers who speak passionately, and regularly with our youth. What lead you to address this particular segment of our population?
TW: The youth sparked something in me that pushed me. I realized kids as being mean and cruel. Then I learned that they picked on me because they didn’t know any better. Education is the key to being empowered. Once I began to share with them my life’s situation, they had an understanding about differences, peer pressure, drugs, and many other issues. I see how young people aren’t using what God has given them.
EMC!: When did you first begin working with children?
TW: I began to deal with our youth from day one. My daughter’s first day of school was a challenge for the both of us. Me — walking her to class — was an experience within itself. But, when we got home that day, I asked her, “How was your day, today?” She replied, “Good, but the only thing I did was answer questions about you.”
That frightened me because, I knew that kids could be very mean to each other. The next day, I called the teacher and asked if I could come into April’s class for “Show and Tell Day.” The teacher was so excited that I was willing to share my story with the kids. I knew that I didn’t want April to be tormented and humiliated as I was as a child. I think we need to train our children up in the way that they should go. And, when they are older, they won’t depart from what they are taught.
EMC!: Your speaking platform includes, “What God Can Do.” Can you share with us how He helped you overcome your adversity?
TW: God is my main focus in life. He’s first. He used me to show me I could do (anything) no matter what. He let me know long ago that, if I didn’t do it, it wouldn’t get done. Also, he let me know that I had everything I needed, I just had to use what I had. “Many are called, but few are chosen.” I was chosen by God to be, just who I am.
EMC!: Tawana, you’ve been quoted as saying: “God delivered me from Crack Cocaine in 1991 and I’ve been on a mission ever since.” Could you elaborate?
TW: Yes. My addiction to Crack started because I wanted to “fit in by any means necessary.” Peer pressure in high school was so hard for me because I was so different. Crack Cocaine consumed me. I neglected my family for Crack. I thought it was my all. When I hit rock bottom — that’s when God stepped in. He did a work and sent me on a mission. I’m a living testimony of what God can do.
EMC!: Many believe that their mission is preceded by a vision from God. Do you share this belief?
TW: Oh, yes! I know God has sent me on this mission because if it was just me, I would have quit long time ago. This is my ninth year as a motivational speaker. God has trained me to the fullest. I am a humble servant.
EMC!: What’s next for you in terms of your projects and speaking engagements?
TW: Les Brown and I will be going into the studio soon to cut a CD series titled, “No Excuse is Acceptable.” And, I will be the Special Guest speaker at Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church, Chicago, Illinois. That date is October 10, 2005, and it begins at 7 p.m. The Pastor is Charles Jenkins.
EMC!: Describe one of the most significant breakthroughs that you had with a member of your audience during — or after a presentation.
TW: I spoke at a high school this past Friday. The young people were excited about me coming. I did my thing and they were blessed.
EMC:! When you say, “They were blessed.” Are you referring to the specific demonstrations which you shared with the students that day?
TW: Yes. I braided “Baby April’s” (a baby doll) hair; fed her; burped her and changed her Pamper diaper. I then demonstrated how I tie shoe laces with my feet — kids are so slothful about not tying their shoe laces these days! I also spoke about peer pressure and teasing other kids. The children showered me with hugs and kisses at the end. One particular girl hugged me so tight, that I knew something was going on inside her.
A couple of days later, I received a letter from a young lady who attended the school. I knew it was that same girl. She told me that, that Friday was supposed to be her last day on earth. She had planned to commit suicide when she got home. But, after hearing my message and seeing me demonstrate how I used my feet, she said: “I can live, and I can go on.” Oh, what a glorious day that was for me and my husband — to know that God used us once again to save another life. God gives strength to the weak, so don’t faint … wait.
EMC!: What a tremendously, powerful presentation that must have been… Tawana Williams, thank you so much for sharing. Indeed, it was a pleasure speaking with you.
TW: The pleasure has been all mine. Thank you, Fran, for giving me the opportunity to share my message of hope and inspiration to encourage someone’s heart today. God bless you.
EMC!: You are welcome. And, I receive my blessing.
eMediaCampaigns! Interviewed Tawana Williams in September, 2005. Tawana Williams and her organization, are a non-profit, 501(c)3, entity. She can be contacted at email@example.com Further information, including how you can request her as a speaker, can be obtained at her website:
http://www.tawanawilliams.com/ and by calling:
For more information on the OnTheMove! Interview Series, contact eMediaCampaigns@aol.com or http://www.franbriggs.com
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