An­to­nia Wil­liams Gary pens mem­oir chron­i­cling abuse

South Florida Times - - FRONT PAGE - By MICHELLE HOLLINGER

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.

PHOTO COUR­TESY OF ANTONIA WILLIAMS-GARY

Antonia Williams-Gary

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