"Unarmed but Dangerous" The Tawana Williams Story of Relentless Struggle and Ultimate Victory.
In Unarmed but Dangerous, Tawana Williams tells the poignant story of being born without arms, surviving the trauma of gang rape, abortion, the miraculous birth of her daughter and drug addiction. Today, Tawana speaks to people across the country, encouraging them to look beyond their circumstances and to accept God’s gift of freedom without limitations.
Part 1: The Presidential Challenge
The book begins by telling the compelling story of how Tawana’s mother, a young black woman in 1963, experienced fainting and nausea so severe that her doctor prescribed the drug Thalidomide. Not realizing the side effects or what impact this drug would have on her unborn child, she took the thalidomide. The drug, which decreased her fainting and nausea, would cause damage far beyond her understanding.
When her daughter was born, the doctor would not allow her to see her new born baby. Instead, he instructed the nurse to “keep her sedated.” For three days following her child’s birth, she was not allowed to see her. Once she did, to her horror, she saw not only that her child did not have arms but that her legs were also impaired. Her life would now take on a new challenge, the challenge of rearing a severely, physically handicapped, black child in the early 1960’s.
With the help of her mother, Tawana’s grandmother, this young mother learned how to care for her child and coped as best as she could. After many attempts to received assistance from the Department of Human Services, in desperation she sat down and wrote a letter to then-President of the United States, John F. Kennedy. What happened as a result of that letter amazed the young mother.
President Kennedy’s office wrote instructing her where to go for help for her challenged child. They also contacted the same Human Services office that had refused to assist her.
Part 2: Identity Crisis
As a result of the President’s intervention, Tawana, at eleven months old, was taken to the Cerebral Palsy Hospital at Duke Hospital in Durham, North Carolina. At the time, no other Black children were there because this was a White institution.
While there, Tawana experienced an identity crisis. Since she had seen mostly Whites, she began to believe, in her young mind, that she too was White. This was evident when the hospital staff ordered her first prostheses, White arms as no Black ones were yet available. Tawana wore them proudly. When the staff ordered her Black arms, she refused to wear them because she thought they did not look like her.
The hospital staff realized that she needed to see her family and requested that they visit more regularly. She soon wore the Black arms but never liked them.
Part 3: The Homecoming
When Tawana at the age of four returned to live with her family for the first time since she was a baby, the children of the neighborhood met and greeted her. Her sisters and mother had told them about Tawana’s physical condition but that did not prepare them.
When one of the children confronted her about her missing arms, she returned the taunt and made everyone laugh, including the other child. Her strength and sense of humor would prove to be a gift since she would soon be tested as she re-entered the world of people with two arms.
Part 4: The Acceptance Factor
Because of her physical limitations, Tawana had a great need to be accepted. This need would soon prove to be one of her greatest liabilities. It drove her to seek friendship at any costs. Although she was an outstanding student, her grades soon slipped in an effort to gain the other students’ acceptance.
With good grades no longer a barrier, she connected with the drug culture. She smoked marijuana and before she realized what was happening, she became addicted to crack cocaine. This began the downward spiral that would last more than ten years.
Part 5: The Return to Reason
Tawana is now on track for her God-given purpose, letting others know they have no excuse for not doing whatever God has told them to do. She says “she is still in the metamorphosis phase, being changed and renewed daily.” Although unarmed, she speaks God’s love with power and helps others know of His forgiveness. She believes everyone is in the midst of the creation process and is like a moth that emerges from its cocoon as a butterfly, changing from glory to glory into God’s image.
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