At present, I am a freelance writer, blogger, as well as a contributing writer for The Clifton House Baltimore, the legacy website for award-winning poet, Lucille Clifton. With deep ancestral roots in my birthplace, Montgomery Alabama, that often informs my work, I typically make an effort to create socially relevant, politically charged essays and stories that defy ancient stereotypes of Black people so often depicted in the media. Learning at an early age that I share a birthday with 19th Century poetess Emily Dickinson, I began writing and attempting to mimic her unconventional writing style. My fascination with words and books grew exponentially over the years and included creating Limericks and short stories and screenplays.
In the middle of my southern girlhood during the pre-civil rights movement era, my family joined in the Great Migration in the early 1950s and settled in Detroit. After graduating from Girls' Catholic Central High School and later completing a few college courses, I joined my older brother, Winston E. Willis, a successful business mogul, in Cleveland. After settling there, I waitressed at my brother’s popular coffee house jazz club, the Jazz Temple, while also holding down a position as a teletype operator at one of AT&T's corporate offices in downtown Cleveland. On Friday afternoon of November 22, 1963, I was stationed on one of the teletype machines that received the shocking message: “Kennedy wounded in Dallas motorcade.” Bearing witness to the historical moment that ultimately marked the end of America’s innocence.
Although my formal education does not include a college degree, I studied Journalism and Screenwriting at UCLA, Cal State LA, Sherwood Oaks Experimental College, and the American Film Institute (AFI). Holding down day jobs in the public relations field and the entertainment industry while balancing the practical necessities of motherhood and family life, my struggle for many years was the same balancing act that millions of other women have faced for generations. But like many other creative spirits, I was also faced with the additional challenge of the age-old dilemma and patriarchal injunction of “art vs. personal fulfillment”. Although I was silenced during my most productive creative years, I fiercely held on to the intoxicating rapture of writing.
In 1999, news of my brother Winston's tremendously compelling situation in Cleveland literally derailed my career aspirations and changed the trajectory of my life. My brother was entangled in a legal battle with the City of Cleveland and the Cleveland Clinic over the racially motivated thefts of his commercial properties and the total destruction of his business empire. He was in the fight of his life. And he asked for my help. What was to have been a weekend visit to assist him with the writing and editing of his Petition to the United States Supreme Court, turned into a 4-year stay in Cleveland. The teaming and creation of a brother and sister partnership, in and out of Cleveland courtrooms, in a futile attempt to save my brother’s properties and defend and protect his constitutionally protected property rights. Our decades-long fight is ongoing, and I remain deeply committed to devoting my skills to my brother's legal battles. In addition, however, my other current projects include a theatrical screenplay, a 2-hour theatrical documentary, a non-fiction book, and a childhood memoir.