Harambee, People

“I kept getting stronger”

Standing in the doorway of her home, Patricia Williams smiles at her husband working in their front yard.

“I have seen a whole lot but I still like Milwaukee,” she says. “I like the greenery and I like the peoples.”

Growing up in housing projects on Chicago’s west side, she says she rarely saw anything green; drugs, gangs, and violence were all too familiar. The third-oldest of 14, she refers to herself as “street-wise.”

As a 14-year-old, Williams witnessed someone get shot in the head while visiting a friend who only lived a few blocks away.

At 23, she fought her way out of being raped after trying to start a polite conversation with a man standing near her building.

“From that time [on], I was afraid,” she recalls.

Those experiences brought her to Milwaukee.

After her first time to the city visiting family, she realized that Milwaukee was where she wanted to live her life and raise her children. It was 1982 when Mrs. Williams packed her bag and caught the Greyhound, with her three younger children in tow, to establish their new lives in Milwaukee.

But that fear she’d felt, it didn’t all stay in Chicago. “I kept [my kids] close to me. I always wanted to know where you were. You couldn’t go over nobody house unless I met the parents and I have got to know who is in the house.”

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Williams has had her fair share of ups and down. For her, life has often been about getting by without much help. Having worked at a number of restaurants during her time in Chicago, Williams knows her way around food, a skill that serves her well as a food service supervisor at Hope Christian School: Prima.

“I love it … I love the kids most of all. I like feeding them. I like seeing smiles on they face.”

She’s had students tell her the reason they love coming to school is because they get to eat. “It brings tears to my eyes.”

But Mrs. Williams always does her best to make the children smile, whether it’s through an extra snack, kind words or simply listening to what is on their minds.

Her husband, whose she’s been married to for 26 years, loves kids too.

“We had our ups and downs and separations, and fussed and cussed and raised hell but I will never let go. You got to keep going.”

Williams, who recently turned 58, recalls her goals, as a young woman.

“I really wanted to be a Mother. I wanted to get married. I wanted to have the picket fence … I wanted my husband to have a good job, I just wanted to be a housewife, taking care of my kids and going to the PTA meetings and all of the little stuff like that,” she says. “It didn’t come out to be all that but I got the kids.”

And she still remembers the advice her grandmother gave her when she was just a teen.

“You have got to do what you got to do,” she closes her eyes and smiles. “She said ‘sometimes it’s gone get hard, sometimes it’s gone be easy … but when it get hard, you get stronger.’”

“Each time I went through something that is exactly what I did.”⬩

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