For the last eight years, they have attended every single Wednesday meeting of the Dallas City Council-that’s how deep their convictions lie; that’s how seriously they view their self-imposed rotes as architects of change in this city. But their commitment goes beyond that. For the last eight years, they have taken off every single day, five days a week, to appear at City Hall”.

But that’s really not the full picture. Because for the last eight years, neither one of them has held a full-time job, period. “You can’t be as effective as we are,” they say, “and be somewhere else from 9 to 5.”

Yes, it has been a great sacrifice. But Marvin Crenshaw and Roy Williams want you to know that they have only begun to sacrifice. Because thanks to one milestone day in March, these two are on a roll.

They promise: we ain’t seen nothing yet.

To most people in Dallas, Crenshaw and Williams have been known, if at all, as the two who get regularly escorted, under protest, out of City Council meetings. Crenshaw, 44, is the short one sporting the bow tie. Williams, 47, is the six-foot-sixer wearing the tiny, ivory Buddha-esque necklace. Every two years Crenshaw runs for mayor, and loses. Every two years Williams runs for an at-large council seat, and loses.

To the powers that be, the two have merely been pests with no pull. That is, until March 28, 1990-the day a federal judge ruled, in a suit filed by Crenshaw and Williams, that the current 8-3 council configuration was discriminatory. Suddenly, the pests were heroes.

“We had legitimized them,” one council member says. “We had allowed them to dominate our forum for three years; we had allowed them to set the agendas of committees and the council; and we had defended the lawsuit pretty poorly.. .I’d seen Marvin and Roy move from almost being kooks to being the leadership.”

And Marvin and Roy have loved every minute of it. “The council made symbols out of us,” Williams says. “That’s what the [minority] community’s been waiting on. Someone to point to and focus on. And now they have it.”

But what is it that the community can point to? What’s behind the bow tie and the necklace? I mean, who are these two guys anyway?

ROY WILLIAMS HAS DREAMS OF BEING ON the other side of that council microphone, but he’ll have to move across town to do it. Right now, he’s living in a one-bedroom, poolside apartment near Bloomingdale’s- ten miles and one river from the district and the people he hopes to represent.

Over the years, Williams has caught plenty of flak about his address. Some minorities can’t understand how he can effectively fight the white power establishment when he’s living in the middle of it. But Williams pays little heed. He is his own man, he says. And he is used to that line of criticism: not only does he live in enemy territory, he lives there with a white wife.

“I don’t try to hide the fact that she’s Anglo, but I don’t profoundly communicate it either,” says Williams, who attributes his wife’s low profile to zero interest in politics. “I get criticism from both sides.”

And how. Last year, when he ran for an at-large seat against three whites, he sought the endorsement of a black organization that had backed him in the past. Its members had one message for him: you’re married to an Anglo, and we don’t like it. “It shocked me,” says Williams, who did not get the endorsement. “If they ever talked with her, they would change their minds completely. I wouldn’t be able to do what I do without her.”

He means that literally. Since Williams hasn’t held a paying job since he quit gambling professionally ten years ago, his wife is the sole breadwinner. She cleans office buildings and houses. If the couple has a child, which they are thinking of doing, she will support the three of them.

Williams believes this is simply the price he and Crenshaw must pay to fight the scourge of racism. “Most of the time our families suffer simply because of the lack of resources we have to contribute to our families,” he says.

Luckily for his wife, Williams leads a pretty spartan existence. The costly habits of his past-high-stakes gambling on almost everything, cocaine, marijuana, booze-have long been forsworn. The radical changes came ten years ago when Williams spotted a highway billboard advertising a Silva Mind Control seminar at the local Howard Johnson’s. The method, he heard, enabled a gambler to control a pair of dice through sheer concentration. Two years and 1,300 sessions later, he was so into the technique that he traded in his seedy former life for an ascetic one of meditation, abstinence, and fasting.

“If I put the right things in my body and in my mind,” he says, “I can align myself with higher intelligence and do things that seem somewhat superhuman.”

But with gambling out of the picture, Williams had to find someplace else to channel his newly acquired skills. He found it one night watching TV. An unarmed black man had been shot by the Dallas police, and the minority community was rallying. Williams joined them. Later, when the cause folded, he found another. And then another.

It is this ongoing dialogue with higher intelligence, Williams says, that makes him an effective advocate for minorities-it enables him, among other things, to wheedle information out of reluctant sources, to put himself in the right place at the right time, and to predict the outcome of council deliberations and legal proceedings. It was during a seven-day fast in March, he says, that he realized U.S. District Judge Jerry Buch-meyer was about to rule in his favor on the council lawsuit.

He meditates every day for five hours, fasts for lengthy periods (his longest was 147 days), and holds spiritual and political jam sessions at the La Madeleine at Mockingbird and Central, where he “offices.”

He does not office upstairs from the restaurant . Or behind the restaurant. He offices in the restaurant, in the middle of the customers, from 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays and from noon to 3 p.m. on Sundays. The pay phone on the wall rings for him constantly. Visitors come and go. In return for six years of unspoken hospitality, Williams makes it a point to eat something while conducting business; the Caesar salad is his current favorite.

“It’s the least I can do,” Williams says, “After all. if 1 had an office somewhere, I’d be paying much more, They’re being very good. I always bless them in my prayers.”

MARVIN CRENSHAW IS NOT A FASTER. A meditator, or a La Madeleine tenant. But he is just as frugal as Williams, if not more so, since he is without the luxury of a spouse.

“You have to sacrifice certain things, and you can’t do it with a family unless you want some problems,” says Crenshaw. “I’ve been involved with two or three women in my life who have supported me and helped me grow. But when it came down to the most important act, I checked out.”

But not before having three children. “They have three different moms,” Crenshaw says of his kids, now 19, 15, and 11. “But we’re all good friends.. .Those were just my irresponsible years.”

His kids might argue that those years are not over. “My oldest daughter and me, we disagree,” says Crenshaw. “She gets mad at me because she thinks I’ve neglected her because of my political activities.”

Crenshaw claims to give his children any extra cash he has, but he hasn’t had much extra for the past 20 years or so. He spent the Sixties and Seventies as a member of the Black Panthers and a full-time student activist at El Centra. He spent the Eighties as a gadfly at City Hall. Crenshaw says he gets by through odd jobs-setting up shows at Market Hall, doing a little research for someone, cutting his neighbors’ lawns.

He doesn’t have a car. On any given mom-ing, he can be found waiting for a yellow DART bus in his suit and bow tie, off to fight the battles of 10-4-1, South African divestiture, or economic empowerment for South Dallas. He didn’t have a phone until late April. He was living until recently with his mother and stepfather, a retired security guard, in Oak Cliff. Today, he lives in a house his grandfather built and his father now owns in South Dallas. “I’ll have to pay him rent,” Crenshaw says. “I want it [the house). In fact, I want to buy it.”

But that might take awhile, seeing that neither he nor Williams has any plans to trade in the cause for a real life. In fact, if they both land seats on a new, all-single-member-council, they will be in their best position ever to do some serious sacrificing.

“My ancestors were promised 40 acres and a mule for their years in slavery, and they never got it,” Crenshaw says of one of their goals. “I think everyone in the minority community here is hopeful that in the future Dallas can initiate a reparations bill for its African-American citizens.”

The rest of the council won’t know whathit them.


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