Strong Girl: Marshawna Williams

Meet Marshawna. Marshawna Williams.

Mama Mer with Queen Marshawna, Rose Festival 2008

Mama Mer with Queen Marshawna, Rose Festival 2008

I wanted to write some detailed description to start this off, but I think the best image is my reaction right now: giggles. Tons and tons of giggles.

When I think about my memories with Marshawna, my friend, Rose Festival sister and most importantly, my tall twin, I am reminded of our initial bond over being the two “tall girls” on the court.

Marshawna, simply put, is light.

When we were learning the dance we would perform at a host of events throughout the Rose Festival season, Marshawna was front and center, ready to dance whatever crazy, funny thing most of us didn’t have the will to get through without tripping over ourselves and falling into fit of laughter.

When we found these cascarones (egg shells filled with confetti) -I have no idea where we got them from- we were the two to go off and break them on our beloved Mama Leslie, who did not think it was as funny as we did, at the time. (Granted, I did go for her head, when hindsight tells me that was a really poor place to aim)

When anyone of us needed someone to laugh with, listen or simply be loved, Marshawna was an obvious choice. Her enthusiasm and joy for her time as a Rose Festival princess, and eventually queen, was so evident. And it’s not just me who would say that. I’m confident our 12 other sisters would agree.

While it has been five years since our time on the Rose Festival court, Marshawna is still continuing to do great things in Portland. But she can tell you all about it herself.

Me, Marshawna, Molly and Monica - reunited Rose Festival sisters. 2009

Me, Marshawna, Molly and Monica – reunited Rose Festival sisters. 2009

How does the word “movement” fit into your life, especially any changes that have happened over the last few months?

When I think of movement I think change. Taking small steps that others can take to make the change with you. I want to make a movement in how to charge our students for secondary education. I believe the current system sets us up to fail and it is important to educate each other about how to not become enslaved to the system. I want to make a movement to help students get out of debt. In my current position I am able to share the important information with students, parents and educators about different resources and steps to prevent a student to going into debt or how to get them out.

What are you currently doing and what brought you there?

I’m currently the education specialist for the Black United Fund of Oregon. I help high school students in my community get to college. Back in 2008 I received a scholarship from BUF to go to the University of Portland. I was asked to help with an event and they had a position open at the time. I applied, went through the process and made it through the other side. The job is not yet exactly what I had pictured as a start to a career but I knew that I would learn so much, meet a lot of people and build new skills along the way. Building connections and setting a stage for my next chapter.

What is one goal you have this year?

The one goal I have this year is to move out of my parent’s house and become independent. I have already spent a year with them and I’m ready to embark out on my own. While simultaneously, working myself out of debt.

Marshawna and her dad, Mark Williams.

Marshawna and her dad, Mark Williams.

Currently, who/what do you draw inspiration from? When you wake up in the morning, what pops into your head and gets you saying, “Today is my day!”?

I draw inspiration from the high school students I work with and my father. The fact that I am alive and well gets me going. I know there is a lesson to be learned in everyday life.

What is one thing you know to be true? What is your statement of faith that drives you to keep doing what you’re doing?

I know that I have a bright future. I know that I want to help people and I will continue to help people. I know that God is shaping me but I also need to make sure I stay on track and not steer away from God.

What is something new that brings Joy to your life?

There are many things that brings me joy in life. I can’t think of just one thing. Life is beautiful and I’m happy to live a life that is full of love, support, amazing people, health and God.

Thank you, Marshawna, for sharing your story! Your goals to empower others through education are truly admirable. You represent Portland with such grace!


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