Williams-Cox’s activism touching many lives
CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST OF THE YEAR
By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook staff writer
At first Dan McDaniel didn’t know what to think of Dianne Williams-Cox. He just knew she was driven by a sense of purpose in her constant mission to tackle issues in her community.
McDaniel has been in the trenches with Williams-Cox, especially during the times she campaigned for an elected position. He described her as being driven and focused.
He often wondered who or what inspires her. Then he met her father.
“She is an internally driven person,” McDaniel said. “When I got to know her dad, I got to understand her a little better because that’s where she got it from. There was nothing that was going to keep him from doing anything and she is the same way.”
Williams-Cox has protested alongside others on countless issues. For at least two decades she’s been the mouthpiece for underserved Southside residents.
She’s shown up at city and county commission meetings telling commissioners they should take their meetings in the neighborhoods where inequities are obvious. At school board meetings, she’s risen concern over failing schools on the Southside.
She’s also formed the Southside United Citizens Action Alliance, an organization that tracks community issues.
Williams-Cox also has been outspoken on women’s rights issues. Equal pay and eradicating workplace harassment shouldn’t be something that women have to fight for, she said.
Her years of championing the causes of others made Williams-Cox one of nine individuals, businesses and organizations that will be honored by the Capital Outlook next month. She was named activist of the year.
“I was surprised because I don’t work for accolades,” Williams-Cox said, reacting to the honor. “I work because I see what needs to be done and it gives me great pleasure.”
Williams-Cox, a Quincy native, settled in Tallahassee in 1986. She’s currently an owner of a consulting firm and she also works for Voices for Florida as an accountability and compliance officer.
Yet she finds time to champion the cause of others. Women’s issues are high on her list.
Without women this world would be an awful place,” she said. “We need men, but I believe that God put the nurturing in us to take care of our families and the earth that he has given us.”
A candidate for a city commission seat this year, Williams-Cox said more women should run for public office so they could have a say on everything from sexism to abortion.
“Policies are being made for us by people who don’t understand us,” she said.
Williams-Cox has a reputation for having a strong stance on equal pay for women, although its hasn’t been a part of the national conversation lately.
“It hasn’t leveled off but it’s just with this president (Donald Trump) there are many things you can go after,” she said. “Equal pay is still one of the things that women’s organizations are fighting for.
“What’s really troubling is if you look at the dollar and how it is distributed; not just locally but nationally, a White man gets more of the dollar, then a Black man gets a little less, the White woman gets some then the Black woman gets a little less.”
Williams-Cox, a Southside resident, made a point of stressing that she represents all races on the issues she takes on. However, she is well known for her neighborhood where inequities are visible on many fronts.
She was so concerned about obvious difference in Southside schools compared to others that she made an unsuccessful bid to get elected to the Leon County School Board in 2008.
Ten years later, she is still asking why failing schools tend to be more on the Southside.
“There is reason for that,” she said. “Let’s find out what is the cause of that and let’s fix it. I believe if there is one A school in the county, all can be A schools. You just have to have the right mix of teachers and resources to educate our children.”
Williams-Cox has inspired many with her community work. Towonda Davila-Davis said her experiences with Williams-Cox have been life-changing when it comes to what’s happening in government.
“I can actually sit at the dinner table and carry on a conversation about what’s going locally or in (Washington) D.C.,” Davila-Davis said, adding that she has been influenced just watching Williams-Cox’s relentless drive.
“She maximizes all of the gifts that God has given her,” she said. “She is strategic and she is not just a haphazard person. She is committed to what she is doing. What I like about her is her commitment.”
Her current run for city commission is her fourth attempt to get elected. She ran twice for a state representative seat, her last attempt in 2016.
Williams-Cox said she considered resorting to her activism as a foot shoulder in her community, but couldn’t avoid taking one more stab at running. There are too many issues that affect the people she advocates for, she said.
“After seeing what was happening at City Hall, what’s happening with the CRA and downtown, I realized that we need to have somebody in the room when these things are happening and not learning about them after the fact,” she said. “We need to have people to be a voice for the people who cannot be in the room.”