Dewayne Williams is making a difference in DeSoto County
Now, he is focused on doing the same thing in Senatobia and Tate County.
Williams of West End Ministries in Hernando is determined to break down the barrier between people of all colors, races and nationalities.
Williams will lead a series of seminars titled “Breaking Down the Wall” every Monday in February at the Haraway Center on the Northwest Community College campus. Each seminar is from 6 to 8 p.m., beginning Monday, Feb. 6. Citizens of all ages are invited to attend.
Williams, who has been Hernando Recreation and Parks Director for the last 11 years, is an ambassador of sorts for the person he says has changed his life the most, Jesus Christ.
“We do ‘Breaking Down the Wall’ to get people together,” Williams said. “By dealing with racism, we go through the church and the teachings of Jesus Christ. “We've found the Gospel is the best way to teach against racism. Jesus tore down the wall of partition between Jews and Gentiles. We are trying to unite people in the body of Christ.”
Williams led a series in DeSoto County in July and August that was aimed at uniting disparate members of the community. He decided to expand his ministry last fall into Senatobia and the surrounding area.
“We don’t have meetings just to meet with one another,” said Rolandaus Rodgers, a leader with Breaking Down the Wall. “It’s a chance to create deep, meaningful friendships with people from other races. It has certainly helped me and now we are trying to help others.”
Williams said people attending the program series range from elderly white and black men and women to young professionals of all races and even visiting clergy.
“One of the strengths of Dewayne’s system is to keep everything Christ-centered,” said Senatobia businessman Brant Kairit, who attended last summer’s seminars. “The Lord does not teach hate. If you are living your life the way the Lord wants you to, you are to forgive. Dewayne’s system will help you remember that.”
In order for racial relations to improve, Williams said people must engage one another.
“It's like the elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about,” Williams said. “We need to talk about it. Look what happened in Ferguson, Missouri. Look what happened in Chicago. Racism is something that affects cities big and small.”
Williams said much of the population growth that is occurring is happening in the southern United States.
“Seventy-percent of the growth is in the Southeast,” Williams said. “This area needs to learn how to deal with the influx of people who are different than you. You need to learn how to deal with people who think differently than you do.”
Williams has modeled the series and his ministry on the teachings and instruction of Jesus Christ.
“There is much to be done," added Williams, who grew up in Hernando's West End neighborhood.
Williams said in addition to nurturing spiritual growth, West End Ministries provides tutors at the Gale Center in Hernando to assist youth with educational and lifelong learning help. The group also feeds families at Thanksgiving and provides toys and gifts for children at Christmas.
Williams added that West End Ministries is currently partnering with several different organizations to bring about healing within the community from the cycle of drugs and violence.
“If you come to the sessions with an open mind, it can change your life,” said Chris Williams, pastor at First Baptist Church in Senatobia. “There are questions asked that will make you search your heart and discover what lies inside.”
Dewayne Williams encourages everyone who plans to attend the “Breaking Down the Wall” seminars in February to watch “The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross” by Henry Louis Gates Jr.
The four-part documentary series is available for viewing on Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) and YouTube.
“The seminars provide a safe environment for people of each race to voice their opinions,” said Denorris Brown, a 2005 graduate of Senatobia High School who is a leader with Breaking Down the Wall. “We are trying to get into homes, churches and hearts and emphasize that Jesus is the perfect example of love. That is based on what is written in the Bible. How can you argue with what is written in the Bible?”