Former Between the Lines Writer C. Imani Williams Releases New Book to Help Women Heal From Trauma

ROOTWORK: Triumph Over Trauma' is a powerful collection of poems, essays and short stories

Jason A. Michael

Imani Williams, a Detroit native, left quite an impression on the city before relocating to Las Vegas. She contributed to Between The Lines and won the 2006 Media Award from the LGBT Pride Banquet for her efforts. In addition, she was the first to run the Ruth Ellis Center Drop-In Center and was an active community organizer who worked with such groups as Detroit Black Gay Pride (Hotter Than July), Sistas Providing Intelligence Creativity and Empowerment (SPICE) and countless others. 

Today, Williams, who identifies as a trauma survivor, is a holistic life coach who uses creative arts, including poetry, short stories and personal essays, to help women overcome years of trauma and self-doubt. Williams calls it "rootwork," and in her new book of the same name ("ROOTWORK: Triumph Over Trauma"), she boldly shares with readers the work she has done on herself through poetry, short stories and personal essays. In an interview with Pride Source, Williams explains how she turned her pain into art and a guide for others.

"I believe one achieves triumph over trauma by sitting still, finding positive ways to express their voice and being honest with self," she said. "Self-love first is my mantra. It took so, so long to get here that nothing or no one is worth giving it up."

In "Rootwork: Triumph over Trauma" Williams bravely bares her soul, speaking frankly about being a survivor of sexual abuse and incest. The subject matter can be difficult to read, but Williams feels compelled to support other survivors by approaching them head-on. 

"I've been writing on incest since graduate school, so the last 10-15 years," she said. "I speak on it often because I really want survivors to understand they can recover and live full lives. What makes it difficult are elders who hold onto family secrets. Protecting pedophiles is never the answer, and neither is blaming child/tween/teen victims of sexual assault. We have work to do." 

One might think sharing her memories of incest might have been the most challenging part of her soul to bare. But, according to Williams, it was not. For her, the most challenging part was deciding to divulge her herpes status. She said she's lived with it for 30 years and she was tired of the "shame" that comes with the diagnosis. 

"It's a part of my life, and I want people to know that the stigma and shaming of those living with herpes are far worse than the disease," she said. 

Williams also shared that she has been intentionally celibate for over a decade now. She made the decision after her third marriage ended in a divorce. In an attempt to heal, she chose to withdraw from sex and become introspective. 

"I was grieving hard with the loss of my mother, my marriage and myself," she said. "I needed every minute to really sit with things that included grief and loss, examining past behaviors and really, just to give myself uninterrupted time to work things through without being responsible for someone else's emotional well-being. This was about saving myself and breaking generational cycles of dysfunction."

Though she uses celibacy as a part of her healing journey, she doesn't consider it a long-term solution. 

"I will have sex again," she said. "We're sexual beings in this world. But only when it's right and the person has touched my soul with consistency and goodwill."

When it does happen, no doubt Williams will write about it. She says she views poetry as her "voice" and a "place of peace." 

"Poetry has saved my life over and over," she said. "Writing it has kept me from acting out destructively and instead offered a sanctuary for whatever I was feeling and needed to work through. Instead of cursing someone out, or beating myself up, I work it out on the page."

Through it all, Williams transformed her self-doubt into self-awareness, a tool she now uses to help others.

"I have found that I am more resilient than I once believed and that, at the end of the day, it's not what others think about me but what I think about myself that matters. For trauma survivors, especially child sexual abuse survivors, that is the work, because we internalize and overcompensate a lot to deal with the shame. The work is not only needed but part of the healing and recovery for survival."

"ROOTWORK: Triumph Over Trauma" is available from Amazon in hardcover ($26) and kindle ($9.99) versions.


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