I attended a book signing recently. I almost didn’t go because my back was aching quite a bit. Chris and I had been invited to attend this event by the Connie Williams, wife of the author, Ronnie Williams. Connie and Ronnie are friends of ours. They both attend our church, and Ronnie is an associate pastor there. This blog isn’t a happy-make-you-smile kind of offering. It’s a story that started back in 1960, when things were drastically different for Black folks living in the Southern part of the United States. Of course, as you read this, you might think of recent incidents that strike an air of similarity.
Ronnie’s book is titled, Markham Street: The Haunting Truth Behind the murder of My brother, Marvin Leonard Williams. I decided not the read the book before writing this blog. I’m familiar with the story; however, I’m not even going to write about my recollections. What I do want to write about is the stage presentation that was done at the book signing. It was an emotionally steering event. Ronnie read several passages from his book. When he was about to read a particular passage, his emotions got the best of him. He asked his younger son to come up and do it for him. This passage was from a chapter in the book called, Mother’s Words.
What’s all this drama about? Let me not proceed a step further without telling you. Back in 1960, Ronnie’s brother Marvin Leonard Williams was arrested and murdered by the police in Conway, Arkansas. The coverup of the murder started immediately and the journey from 1960 to the writing of Ronnie’s book has taken over sixty years with no justice to be had.
The facilitator for the stage presentation began by asking Ronnie and a friend of his, Fred Allen, who also was onstage, questions about their high school basketball days. There was lighthearted and sometimes comical banter with this topic. The moderator, who was white, was also a basketball player and a contemporary of Ronnie’s. I must admit, I became a bit impatient with this part of the presentation because I was anxious to hear the details of one of the darkest stories to ever occur in Arkansas history. However, even the basketball tales had elements of racism etched in them. Fred Allen, who was a star basketball player, is now being considered for induction into the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame.
Fred shared a story that painted a picture of how racism prevented him from receiving word of several basketball scholarships. He graduated high school from what was then one of the newly desegrated schools in the South. His basketball coach, who was white, received letters from several colleges interested in recruiting him for their basketball team. Fred was shocked to discover later that any colleges had an interest in recruiting him.
Beside the tragedy of the murder of Ronnie’s brother, there were two trials in the decades that followed Marvin’s murder, a criminal one and a civil one. Neither offered decisions that were satisfactory for the Williams family.
There’s a question that has lingered in my mind for years, and it will until I exit this life: How can any human being end the life of another? I honestly think I would be bothered if I took the life of another in self-defense. I could be wrong, but I think most of us on the planet think likewise. Somehow, I think if we didn’t, death from violence of every kind would take a much greater toll than it does now.
If you don’t, I would like to put a plug in for Ronnie’s book here: Markham Street: The Haunting Truth Behind the Murder of My Brother, Marvin Leonard Williams. The book can be purchased on Amazon.
I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.