By Lance S. Deane Jr.
Sophomore Tony Williams was never one to care what others thought about him. This year, Williams added his name to the small number of African-American male students who ever cheered for KU, according to KU’s head cheerleading coach, Crystal Swift.
Williams was born and raised in East Stroudsburg, Pa., which in most cases can be considered a diverse area. “I never really looked at race as an issue,” said Williams. He often surrounded himself around people of a variety of races.
Different from many of his male friends, Williams developed an interest in cheerleading.
“I hope I can influence many more black males to tryout,” said Williams. “There are a lot of African-Americans that have cheered their whole life because that’s what they love to do, but then they go to college and quit because they feel a little discouraged since they are the minority.”
His love for cheerleading came with a lot of criticism from his peers. Still, Williams overcame this and followed his true passion. He decided to continue not only his academic career, but also his athletics.
“My advice for the African-American population would be to dismiss the negative things that people have to say about you,” said Williams. The young athlete hopes he can influence the African-American students at KU as well as the overall male population.
“By trying out and making the team, I really hope that I have made a positive influence for other males who may have second guessed trying out for the team,” said Williams.
KU’s head cheerleading coach Crystal Swift said, “Tony is an outstanding cheerleader showing leadership and dedication. He is always a pleasure to be around and to work with.”
Junior Brandi Henderson, who is also a member of KU’s Cheerleading team, is thankful to call Williams her teammate and friend.
“Tony is a good cheerleader and an even better person. I am proud of him and all that he has accomplished to become Kutztown’s first African-American male cheerleader. I hope his accomplishment has encouraged other blacks to continue to follow their dreams and do what they love,” said Henderson.
David Peterson, a sophomore at KU also feels that what Williams did is a huge accomplishment and should be acknowledged for it. “We often overlook accomplishments like this, but being that he is African-American and male, Williams could have simply just given up. But he seemed determined to succeed,” said Peterson.
“I believe that regardless of what people may think about my gender or skin color, I will continue to do what I consider to be enjoyable to me. After all, I wouldn’t be ‘myself’ if I allowed other people to control my happiness,” said Williams.