A street cop keeps King's dream alive

Monday, January 18, 1999

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Sgt. Carolyn Ann Williams
Carolyn Ann Williams strives to keep dreams alive. It's her life's work.

Today she's being rewarded for what she sees as "just standing up and being counted."

At the Martin Luther King Jr. Day Breakfast, she receives the Dreamkeeper Award from the Arts Consortium of Cincinnati and the Cincinnati Museum Center. First presented in 1991, the annual award goes to a person or group that applies the Rev. Dr. King's teachings on nonviolence and equality to daily life.

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More often that not, the award goes to a public figure or an organization whose standing in the community and willingness to serve allow them to think lofty thoughts and put them into action.

Carolyn Ann Williams is not a public figure. She is, in her own words, "just a cop who cares."

Her ability to care and her dedication to duty, I submit, explain why this fine-boned, 5-foot-3-inch mother of four sons and an 18-year veteran of the Cincinnati Police Division won the award.

She grew up in the projects, one of eight children in a cramped apartment. After a sister became a nurse and a brother became a police officer, she dreamed of getting out and making something of herself. She did and she has.

Today, she lives in Winton Hills. And she wears a sergeant's badge. Sgt. Williams coordinates the police division's Drug Abuse Resistence Education program that sends DARE officers into the schools to help teach kids to shun drugs and violence.

Sgt. Williams talks with students "because," she said, "of my babies." She turned to look at the photos of her four sons, starting with a snapshot of a 6-year-old at play and ending with a portrait of a 26-year-old Marine. The framed photos stood atop a bookcase in the DARE unit's office, a windowless room crammed with well-used desks and filing cabinets deep in the basement of District 4 headquarters. "I want the world to be safe for my kids," she said, "for all kids."

She sounds like William Mallory Sr., the recipient of the 1992 Dreamkeeper Award and former majority leader of the Ohio House. Decades ago, the Rev. Mr. King inspired the lawmaker to march for civil rights and write a poem, "The Marchers" which he still recites from memory. "Why do you march? . . . I march for unborn generations of black children."

Although retired from public office, he still helps strangers who ask him to fight against discrimination.

"My wife," William Mallory told me, "is always teasing me that I'm still trying to save the world."

And he tells her: "Why not?"

While fighting drug use and violence amomg young people, Sgt. Williams also preaches against racism.

"I tell kids, racism is like a drug. You're not born with it. You have to inject it into your body.

"As with drugs, I tell them: Simply resist. Don't even try it. Racism will destory your life, your friends, your family. And, it can kill you."

In her years on the force, Sgt. Williams has seen too much death. "Young kids kill each other over gym shoes and

clothes, over a street corner they claim to be their turf but none of them really owns." She asks kids why they have such little value for human life, why they must resort to violence. They tell her if they don't fight back, they will be called sissies.

"What does that make Dr. King?" she asks them. "He was hosed down, bitten by dogs, beaten with sticks and he never fought back. He died for your freedom and this is the thanks he gets."

Then she asks: "What are you doing to keep his dream alive?" Blank stares and silence usually greet her question. So, she tells them what they can do. Everyday, they should look in a mirror and say:

"I am somebody. I want to be something. I will fulfill my dream."

If they doubt it will do any good, she tells them about how it helped Carolyn Ann Williams, a kid from the projects, become a cop who cared enough to be a keeper of dreams.

Columnist Cliff Radel can be reached at 768-8379; fax 768-8340.