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‘Change your mindset for a better life’
Miss Virginia 2013 speaks at breakfast
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Staff Photo by Stacey Hairston: Darlene Swain (left), organizer and founder of the Warren Street Festival, presents a certificate of appreciation to former Miss Virginia Desiree Williams for speaking at Saturday’s breakfast.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

By STACEY HAIRSTON - Staff Writer

"We must write our own history. If not, who will?"

That was the theme of this year's annual Warren Street Festival.

In keeping with that theme, Miss Virginia 2013 Desiree Williams challenged attendees of the Warren Street breakfast to take charge of their own career ambitions, their roles in society and their health in order to become the "authors of their own history."

Williams, the guest speaker at this year's Warren Street breakfast, told guests that decisions they make every hour, every week, every month and every year will shape and determine what will become their history.

"Current trends can be used to predict the future," she said. "If that's the case, our future is looking a little bit dismal. Instead of allowing other people to write our history and instead of allowing researchers to predict these dismal outcomes for our society, we must change our mindsets and strive for a better and more productive life."

"We must serve as role models for our families and friends and ultimately, write our own history," she added.

Speaking on the importance of education, Williams quoted the late Nelson Mandela, "Education is the greatest weapon which you can use to change the world."

"We must create goals, a plan to achieve that goal and, ultimately, follow through in that plan," she said. "Nothing in life comes without hard work, and more importantly, preparation."

"We can blame society all we want for not achieving our goals, but the largest barrier to not achieving our goals is ourselves," she added.

For over 15 years, Williams said she let her skin color hold her back from her dreams.

"I stood in the way of my own dreams and my own goals because I thought I wasn't enough," she said.

It wasn't until age 21 that Williams competed in her first pageant, and in 2013, she was crowned Miss Virginia. Within three years, she received over $30,000 in scholarships to help offset the cost of her education.

"We have to step out of our own way and be willing to challenge the current trends in order to achieve all the successes and all the blessings that are coming our way," she said.

Williams also spoke on the importance of reversing current health trends, adding that she is extremely passionate about current health issues in America and the current health struggles for women of color.

"It was my platform as Miss Virginia," she said. "I am dedicating my life to this, but I'm also writing a book about it. It is just that critical."

Williams said four out of five black women are overweight or obese.

"As women, we wear many hats," she said. "Being a mother, a professional, a wife and so much more comes with much responsibility. You can't underestimate the influence your choices have on those around you."

"It's up to each of us to change our mindsets and in turn, change our behaviors to ensure that we are the authors of our own history," she added.

Williams graduated from Hampton University in 2011 with a bachelor's degree in health and physical education. She is currently enrolled in Hampton's Doctor of Physical Therapy program and will graduate in May 2015.

In addition to being certified to teach health and physical education, Williams is also a certified yoga instructor and has studied community health and Chinese medicine in the Yunnan Province of China.

Williams took a sabbatical during the 2013-14 academic year to serve as Miss Virginia 2013 and compete in the Miss America competition.

During her year of service, she spoke to several thousand children, as well as adults, about her personal platform, Fighting Childhood Obesity: Let's Move!, in an effort to inspire a community approach toward combating the obesity epidemic.

As Miss Virginia, Williams also served as the state ambassador for Children's Miracle Network hospitals and STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) for women.

Her commitment to fitness has won her numerous Lifestyle & Fitness awards and has provided her the opportunity to speak at several conferences, including the Virginia NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) State Convention and the Virginia Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance State Convention.

Williams said she enjoys any opportunity to inspire others to make healthy choices, demonstrate leadership, set and achieve goals, serve the community and reach their highest potential.

Saturday's breakfast also featured words of inspiration from Miss Wheelchair Martinsville-Henry County Whitney Stone.

Presiding Hostess Edith Woods Morgan opened the breakfast ceremony with a song, and Rev. Darryl Herndon of Solid Foundation Church in Danville gave the invocation and benediction.

Guests were recognized and presented awards by Joan Pilson and Darlene Swain of the Warren Street Society.

The Warren Street Festival is an annual celebration of Warren Street and its history. It takes place along Warren Street and the farmers' market with music, food a car show, parade, business expo and other activities.

Grand marshals of this year's parade included Vesper Edwards, A.J. Reeves and Winfred Hopkins, all elder members of the Warren family.

 
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