Cousins team up to tell story of family life in the inner city

Antrone "Juice" Williams (left) and Damien Womack


BG Independent News

Usually book signings don’t include blood pressure tests.

Antrone “Juice” Williams, though, always includes the health screening at events he’s involved in. Since he almost died from a stroke while working out back in 2012 he’s been an advocate for stroke awareness.

That was the focus of the first book he wrote with his cousin Damien Womack. “A Walking Testimony Stroke Survivor: My Second Chance” was about his recovery, an ongoing process, from his near-death experience.

It was meant to be an inspiration and encouragement for others facing this situation, and a warning about the necessity of monitoring blood pressure and other health indicators. The former semi-professional and college basketball player has devoted his life to raising awareness of the dangers of strokes and helping youth.

Now Williams and Womack have written a second book “The P.I.L.L.A.R.S.”

Originally, Womack said, this was supposed to be part of the first book, the story of how Williams arrived at the gym in Augusta, Maine, where he was felled by a stroke.

But the publisher decided, Womack said, it was better to keep the book focused on the inspirational story.

“The P.I.L.L.A.R.S.” – that stands for The People I Love, Last and Remain Sacred” – reflects on the families that raised the cousins. While it’s told with love, “it’s more in your face,” Womack said. “It means you’re going to run the gamut of emotions.”

The book takes the reader to the inner city streets of Chicago, where Williams grew up, and Detroit, where Womack grew until moving to rural Ohio to be with his father.

Each had their strengths. Williams thrived on the neighborhood basketball courts playing street ball. Womack did his best in the classroom.

Neither had an easy childhood, coming from working poor families in tough neighborhoods with gangs always off in the wings.

Their families were loving, but many of them tried to salve the pains of life with alcohol leading to arguments and break-ups. And, Williams said, there was the shadow of chronic illness that no one wanted to talk about.

Williams suffered from a sense of abandonment when his father left his mother, who then had to work long hours to support him. That left him in the care of his grandmother, and feeling his mother had abandoned him as well.

Womack’s father had to follow his job to Cambridge, Ohio, when Champion Sparkplug closed its Detroit plant. His parents’ marriage didn’t survive the move, splitting the family.

The story is raw, though not without its touches of humor and sentiment.

Womack moved to Bowling Green in the late 1999 to attend Bowling Green State University on a full scholarship. Williams joined him in 2016 as he continued his recovery. They’ve been a team since working both on the books and running the Team HOW Foundation.

“Having grown up together, it’s not a challenge to translate his vision into words,” Womack said.

Given their schedules though finding tome to meet face-to-face is a challenge. They communicate as much they can through emails and other means. But Williams said that he suffers from aphasia as a result of the stroke. So it helps to work with his cousin who knows him so well.

“He brings my words to life.”

Copies of “The P.I.L.L.A.R.S.” are available at Grounds for Thought and also from Amazon both as print and in a Kindle version.