Working to be an agent of change
It is often said that there are three types of people in this world: those who make things happen, those who watch things happen, and those who wonder what happened.
When Cathleen Williams ’95 began noticing that her views and experiences as an African American, single mother were not represented on national television, she knew she wanted to make things happen.
In order to change the trend and increase representation, Williams began taking media broadcasting courses and researching how she could begin her own television program.
“That was a vision of mine, something I was interested in doing,” Williams said. “I figured one way to combat that (lack of representation) was to have your own television show.”
This month, her show “I’m Just Saying” is entering its seventh year on the air for Time Warner Cable.
The show, which airs in New York and online at www.imjustsayingtv.com, invites people from a wide variety of positions and races, including politicians, clergy members, and family members, to discuss issues of health, education, happiness, relationships, and love.
Williams said high school graduation rates of African American men in New York City, which was a meager 28 percent in 2010, prompted her to create the show.
“Looking at the various reasons why that is and looking for ways to get people involved in changing and combatting (the graduation rate) is one of the main reasons I do the program,” Williams said. “To me, it’s something happening to people of color, but it needs a very diverse community of people to make things change.”
Williams has interviewed motivational speakers Lisa Nichols and Les Brown, Congressman Gregory Meeks, and New York Senator Malcolm Smith, while also acting as her show’s CEO and producer. Several times a month, Williams heads into the Time Warner studio in Queens, New York, to tape multiple installments of her show. The first Thursday of each month, Williams’ show airs live online at www.ustream.com/ijstv.
In addition to her television show, Williams has produced a radio show called “Adam Where Art Thou” since 2009. The show looks into the “single-mother conundrum” and the increasing number of single-parent households all over the world.
“More and more households are headed by women,” Williams said. “In looking at what happens to these young men who are growing up in fatherless households, that’s where the show’s name comes from.”
When she is not producing her media programs, Williams adds to her already busy schedule by maintaining a private general practice at The Williams Law Group in New York, where she focuses in foreclosure defense.
“I run constantly,” she said, laughing.
Also a registered nurse, Williams said attending law school was always a goal of hers.
“I wanted to be a lawyer first; that was my dream,” she said. “What happened was I found myself following my mother’s dream, and that was to go into medicine.”
After several years of nursing, Williams decided to follow her dream and enrolled at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law. With her 2-year-old son Sean in tow, she relocated from Los Angeles to Columbus.
Raising her son as a single mother while also attending school is what Williams says she is most proud of.
“We did have to struggle. It wasn’t easy,” she said. “Even though I had a legal career, it was still very difficult to manage. It was really important to have him see that whatever he dreamed of is still possible.”
Sean is a graduate of Stuyvesant High School in New York and Carnegie Mellon University. He currently attends graduate school at St. John’s University. His successes lead people to ask Williams how other single mothers can raise their sons in the same way.
Soon, Williams began writing the first of an eight-book series called “Single Mother the New Father,” which was released in 2010.
“I think it’s really important to understand that while many people think that women cannot raise boys to become men, that is not necessarily true,” Williams said. “Women can raise young men, but we need the support and assistance of other men to do it. And how you get men involved in your son’s life safely is a big part of the book.”
The book highlights the importance of sports involvement and how that involvement can be handled safely. The second book, “Single Mother the New Father: Show Me the Money,” is expected to be released in March.
In continuing her efforts to improve the lives of young men and women, Williams is a regional co-coordinator for International Men’s Day in the state of New York. In her role as coordinator, she founded an annual program called the Great Men of Excellence Academy of Kings, which inducts several men who display excellence in their community. This year, 40 men were inducted, including former New York City mayor David Dinkins, who received the legendary lifetime achievement award.
“It was an incredible event,” Williams said.
She also started S.W.A.G. University, a free program open to young men and women who are invited to meet with business owners and community leaders for personal interactive group mentoring. The program is designed to teach the young adults to become men and women of sophistication, wisdom, accountability, and greatness.
Despite her busy career outside of practicing law, Williams says attending law school was an experience that transformed her life.
“Regardless of whether or not I practice law, that will always be a part of who I am,” Williams said. “If I can do anything to increase the number of African American attorneys, that is something I’d like to do by making sure that young black men get through high school. If they can’t get through high school, they’ll never see the interior of a law school.”
This article was written by Jay Clouse.