Antonia Williams Gary pens memoir chronicling abuse
MIAMI— She spent years in the public spotlight as the wif e of one of Miami’s most powerful men. An accomplished professional in her own right, Antonia Williams-Gary said she concealed what was going on in their marriage.
“For many years I hid, I wore many hats, I covered up, I pretended everything was fine even though I was struggling internally,” shared Williams-Gary, who said her ex-husband, the late Howard Gary, was a bully who emotionally abused her.
She has chronicled her experience in a memoir, “Reclaimed,” from which she will read, discuss and answer questions on April 15 at Books and Books in Coral Gables.
Although the idea to write her life story began in 1968, the year she got married; she actually began the process a few years ago when she moved away from Miami to Texas.
“Reclaimed” is Williams-Gary’s account of her journey of recovery from decadeslong emotional abuse while living with her powerful husband, the City of Miami’s first African-American city manager. Gary, who became embroiled in one of South Florida’s most salacious corruption scandals, passed away many years after his marriage to Williams-Gary ended.
“We were married for 23 years. He didn’t die until 2009,” Williams-Gary said.
What began as a “pity party,” has emerged as a memoir she hopes will help other women who might be having a similarly abusive experience to wake up and get the help they need to heal.
“I know intuitively, experientially, factually, many women like myself , well-educated African-American women in high profile positions, married to men who are bullies remain silent. We eat, drink…turn to church, but we hide,” said Williams-Gary.
She wants women to recognize that “if she got over it, (they) can get over it.” But first they have to identify it as emotional abuse. Challenging, she said, because unlike physical abuse, it doesn’t leave visible bruises.
Williams-Gary said she is now living a happy, joyous and fulfilled lif e, but she had to heal first.
“The catharsis took place long before I actually wrote the book. I went through a whole cycle of denial, began to abuse alcohol, sought therapy off and on,” Williams-Gary shared. “I did lots of things, finally got to the place where I realized oh, I’m being abused.”
The response from others, she said, was often not helpful and seemed to be part of a “cultural code.” She was advised to, “Girl, just make him pay. Make him do right.”
She was also told repeatedly, “if I was you, I would – fill in the blank.” Advice, “That doesn’t help us, and it doesn’t help the men, who also need help,” she said.
Ultimately, she wants to share her experiences to help others, especially the black community.
“I want to start a conversation around emotional abuse, of open healing. I want us to come out from the devastating cycle of power and control,” she shared. “It’s a cycle that needs to be broken.”
Williams-Gar y will read from and sign copies of her book on April 15 at 4 p.m. at Books & Books in Coral Gables; 265 Aragon Ave, Coral Gables. For more information, call 305-442-4408.