Delores Williams & Del Williams Media
FINALIST: Moving From Abandonment to Defining Herself


It was 18 years, 5 months, and 3 days when Delores' mother decided that she would make her abandonment final. All the coming in-and-out would end. The FBI following would stop. The uncertainty would be over.

She had been on her own since she was 15, but this was different. She was an orphan of sorts. Her father had died three years previously, her relatives wanted little to do with her, and now her mother had made her feelings clear. There would not be the mother-daughter relationship she had dreamed of for years.

It should have hurt, but Delores felt a weight lifted off of her. For the first time in her life she would be able to define who she was instead of being defined. Who would guess in 25 years she would be a prestigious writer covering newsmakers such as Preston King.


At five days old Delores had been given away to a relative. Her mother, Jean, had chosen a life of crime, and there was no room in it for Delores. Unfortunately due to that choice, Delores went through physical and sexual abuse by the time she was 8. She was in her fourth place by order of the Court.

Prior to being moved to the final home, Delores had been sat on a stove, burned with irons and lamps, and left wandering in the snow at the age of four. When she was four, a man and woman drove up in a brown car to get her off the side of the road. They introduced themselves as her mother and father. Off she went to live in the Bronx. For the next four years Delores suffered more abuse, and watched as her father was hit in the head with a hammer. She remembers the blood. She remembers him leaving her there with this woman that she called mother.

One Saturday the phone rang and Delores answered it. The woman on the other end identified herself as her mother. Confusion set in because the mother she knew was sitting across from her. It seems there had been a secret that no one bothered to tell her. There would be more secrets revealed over the next 8 years, like her mother being a federal prisoner, and at times an escapee which resulted in Delores being followed by the FBI.

Within the next year, Jean would win custody of Delores, but was under mandate to turn her over to another relative. She did, and left for five years. This began the cycle of in-and-outs that would plague their relationship. There were letters that were required writing, and sometimes visits, but there was also something else. There seemed to be a disconnect.

This feeling of disconnect had infiltrated Delores' life. She did not trust people, would not accept love, and was given to bursts of anger. The thing that went through her head as she moved from home to home, "mommy to mommy" was, "What is wrong with me?" That question had been pounded in because any time she displeased someone there was always a comparison to her mother and how the apple didn't fall far from the tree.

At the age of 15, she had had enough, and did the thing her mother had done, she walked out the door to never return. It was in this "aha moment" that Delores' success formula was borne - she learned to operate on her own, better than with the adults in her life. That move was the move that ultimately took her from feeling like an outcast to endeavoring to become a woman that she could be proud of. It was time to define who she was, and it was not who she been raised to be. It was time to step into her future.

Could Delores rise above the deceptions, abandonment, and uncertainty to live a life she could only imagine?

Professional Challenge

Becoming a writer had been a huge step for Delores. Sure, she had written diaries and stories, but not for the world to see. She always felt she had something to say, but was constantly held back by what she had heard her whole life. "Who do you think you are?" "Why would anyone listen to you?" Her personal favorite was, "Don't get too big for your britches.” All were meant to keep her silent and to make her see that she was a nobody that no one cared about.

It took a cause to usurp the feelings of inadequacy. She had watched the story of Dr. Preston King on TV and found herself wanting to know more about him. So the next morning she picked up the phone and started calling around to find people involved in the story, and surfed the web to find Dr. King. She found him, contacted him, and then called a local weekly to pitch the story.

When the article came out, and less than 2 weeks later there had been a Presidential Pardon, Delores knew that she wanted to be a writer. Not just a writer, but an advocate for those who did not feel they had a voice. In writing, whose daughter she was did not matter, or what her family background was. Only the words mattered, and how she chose to use them.

By stepping out to do that first article, years later Delores would be approached to write the Biography of Dr. Preston King for a joint project of the W. E. B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard University and Oxford University Press project.

Despite beating the odds, and breaking into writing, questions lingered. Could Delores repeat her success or was this a one-time hit? Did people really think she had something to contribute, or were the negative words that she could never be anything going to proven true? Suppose she had never taken the chance?

Personal Challenge

What Delores thought about herself was clearly a reflection of what she had been taught to believe because of the negative words that had been spoken over her. The challenge was to undo the emotional damage those "harmless" words had inflicted on her. She began to change her thinking by:

    Reading books and biographies of people she admired.

    Making positive affirmations over herself.

    Surrounding herself with people who believed in her.

    Forgiving those who didn't realize the damage they caused with their words.

It took some time, but for the most part Delores has redefined herself and is living life on her own terms.