Dera R Williams

Dera R. Williams is a fiction and memoir writer whose writing is informed by ancestral ties and family history research. She has written a collection of Oakland childhood stories and her novel-in-progress explores the Great Migration. Inheriting the Role of Griot Some family stories are told over and over and depending on who is doing the telling determines what and how it happened. When attempting to decipher what is indeed truth and what is fiction, one needs to peel back the layers of the telling, one by one, examine and decide what to keep and what to discard. Mindful of the fact that children were not supposed to be in “grown folks’ business”, I was always lurking around corners or outside doors, eager for a morsel of something juicy that would enhance my diary entries for the night. I could easily take a word or phrase heard and weave it into something dramatic that would make for a good tale. I was therefore at full attention when sitting on the front porch of the “old house” of my grandparents where everyone was welcome. There is where I heard the “Porch Stories” of both my family and the community when visiting rural southern Arkansas during the summers of my youth. One running thread in my family was centered around the fear of a ghostly presence in the house. The impetus for ghost yarns were the various deaths in the house including my maternal grandfather. Some of the ghostly tales became bigger and scarier with each telling. Culture and the art of oral history are the true meanings of my storytelling. How events of the past; the social and political histories of my people’s existence are often woven into the fabric of the story much like the symbols and images of the quilts my grandmother and the women before her wove unknowingly telling a story of courage and persistence. It is no wonder I became the family historian, a weaver of stories, and an advocate for unsung voices to be heard. My stories are for those who will come later, descendants of the enslaved and enslavers who will learn of their ancestors’ trials and tribulations, joys and sorrows, laughter, and tears. They are memories not to be forgotten but to be remembered; albeit painfully so there is no doubt they were present, their history lives on.

Home Location
Oakland