“Babe, I’m hungry.” “It doesn’t matter where we go, as long as I get something to eat.” I say to my Shnuggah as we cross southern borders into Sanford, Florida. At this point, my anti chain food spots normally, but I’m hungry af now self, says “(insert any normal chain restaurant near Target) looks bomb. But nah. “Jefferson street looks like it’ll have some great restaurants”, he says. God is testing my patience, but I listen to my love. Later, we pass a yellow sign that says, “Shantell’s Just Until..” I’ve never seen it before, but it looks familiar. I say, “that looks like a good place.” Finding ourselves in downtown Sanford, Florida, we park near another restaurant sign that says, “Best Wings and Fish.” Normally, that would grab my attention. But nah. I know they are lying especially now that I’ve tasted Ms. Shantell’s Catfish nuggets, Cornbread, Jerk Shrimp & Rice sprinkled with bits of her wisdom.
Direction– noun|a course along which someone or something moves.
Imagine. Black chairs and tables decorated in yellow and silver. Jazz music playing in the background while your eyes gaze over artistic trim–pictures and posters of life, art, and the original culture notifying you this truth: you are home. She says, “sit any where you like we’ll be right with you” while training one of her 16 children at the register. We receive our menus and order the homemade lemonade.
She greets us with an assignment. Google “Bessie Stringfield.” As a lover of learning, I quickly hit Safari to learn that Bessie Stringfield is the “Motorcycle Queen of Miami” Altogether, Bessie Stringfield was the first Black woman to travel 48 states by motorcycle and worked as a motorcycle dispatcher for the US Army during World War II. She did all of those remarkable things when a. Black people were still victims of the Jim Crow south and b. women were not thought of enough to ride or drive motorcycles. In essence. Bessie Stringfield was of the first hot girls of her time.
Shantell Williams, proprietor, of “Shantell’s Just Until” found herself often pondering on the name, Bessie Stringfield. Visiting Harley Davidson, as a fan and patron, she became perplexed at the fact Bessie Stringfield had not be inducted into their Hall of Fame. Disgusted and determined to make change she sought out to make Bessie Stringfield a Harley Davidson Hall of famer. After being told she would need 1 million signatures, Ms. Shantell decided she would make some noise by following in her ancestor’s foot steps. She resolved to travel 48 states on her own motorcycle.
Ms. Shantell had little to no money for gas or hotel stay, but followed the orders of God nonetheless. She reached her first hotel stop with 23 dollars and a dream. She pled her will and purpose to the manager at a local hotel, by God she received an entire suite to rest. Afterward, continuing her journey and quest to get Bessie Stringfield inducted. She spent many nights crying and praying, for she soon became exhausted, lonely, weary, and unsure. But God. Sha nah nah.
She continued her story by saying; God spoke to her and the memory of Bessie Stringfield crept in as she recalled Bessie Stringfield had been turned away from hotels for being Black and harassed for being a woman. Truly, she believed if she got out of her own way, she could make a way for her mission. So she did, and Bessie Stringfield was inducted into the Harley Davidson Hall of Fame that December with one signature and many news and radio press that followed Ms. Shantell’s story.
Today, Ms. Shantell OWNS the building that houses her restaurant. She is expecting to be featured on Food Network in a few months. She governs a local motorcycle club, mothers 16 children—10 of which she gave birth, and loves and builds with her husband.
Break it down, B:
At the conclusion of Ms. Shantell’s testimony, I asked her one question:
1. What advice would you give to a young woman who is trying to reach for her dreams?
Her response was this:
Move out your own way. Sometimes we have a thought about what we want to do. The counter thought is, ‘I can’t do it because of this, this, this, and this.’ Just have in your mind what you want to do, and do it. Any excuse will do, if you don’t. My excuses were plenty. I was thinking, ‘the kids start school in three weeks’ and ‘I don’t have no money’, & ‘people are going to think I’m abandoning my kids’, but this was way bigger than me. It was way bigger than me…So, I would just say if you got a goal or a dream then you gotta do your part. Your part may just be opening the door. God will take you the rest of the way
When I tell you a young boss chick such as myself got chills after hearing her story. Keep in mind, I did not want to go exploring any more streets to find food. I wanted to stick to my comfort zone in a new town. I wanted to take the easy road. I wanted to be impatient. Instead, with a little push, not only did I meet a live hero, but also I learned that spirit will guide you to the places you need to go (Psalsm 32: 8). And maybe in this new strange place or this new uneasy direction, you may find your next steps, a mentor, or a new faith in the direction that God leads. Ms. Shantell was afraid of her challenge. She even became weary in the mist of her deed. Yet…that faith. When she followed the direction of her heart, her mission was complete, her spirit was filled, and her propensity to inspire is off the charts.
“Your part may just be opening the door. God will take you the rest of the way.”-Shantell Williams
- If God got you, nothing can be against you.
- We stand on the shoulders of strong ancestors.
- Ain’t nothing like a Mom and Pop restaurant.
Until next time…
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This touched me so much…..Thank you for sharing!!
I can attest to the vibe and energy you feel when you enter Shantell’s place. I met her a few years ago at a previous place she owned & it always stayed with me how it felt like home. Like she knew you forever. That was 5 years ago & she’s is family now. I watched her journey to get Bessy inducted & her kick ass energy inspires!! This piece like the many others are on point. Love you Shantell… see you soon.
Very inspiring! Thanks for sharing Shantell’s story and teaching me something new!