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Neighborhood leader works to instill pride in community with reputation for crime

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The house reeks of smoke. A thick film of soot coats the walls. The oak cabinets above the stove are charred black.

Hours earlier, Tanang Williams returned home from surgery to find that a fire had melted her kitchen and killed her two dogs.


Soot covers a wall of Tanang Williams' home in the Dorchester Waylyn neighborhood after a fire in August. The blaze destroyed her kitchen and killed her two dogs, but Williams remained optimistic. "I'm not going to go anywhere," she said. Michael Pronzato/Staff

But Williams isn't worried about the state of her Saratoga Road home as she sits in bed in a nightgown and pecks on her laptop this August evening. She’s preoccupied that construction hasn’t started on a nearby park that would give kids a long-awaited place to play out of the streets. She sends off a few emails.

"I got my boxing gloves on at all times," she said with a chuckle.

Williams, 50, has brown eyes that grow large when she’s joking or corralling a group of hyper kids. Her planner is often full with obligations for the Dorchester Waylyn Neighborhood Association. After all, she is the group's president.

The New York native has made it her mission to improve things here, to instill a sense of ownership and pride. She has spent several years spearheading cleanup days, peace weeks and an after-school program for kids. 

Williams arrived at a neighborhood association meeting in the spring toting a BI-LO gift card and a spread of refreshments: cake, chicken, potato salad, rolls, fruit juice. She hoped the promise of food and a raffle would draw more attendees than the usual handful of longtime residents and council members. It worked.

People crowded into a kids' worship room at Shiloh Seventh Day Adventist Church. Cutouts of pink, purple and orange flowers and butterflies adorned the white cement walls.

One newcomer, a chatty 24-year-old, told the group he'd been considering moving to the Waylyn. But he worried about the area's reputation for crime.

He seemed surprised to learn that the Waylyn had been relatively quiet by that point in mid-March, unlike Dorchester Terrace, which had seen three homicides since the first of the year.

“I thought it was the worst area in North Charleston,” the young man said with a tinge of relief.

Williams had heard this before. She balks at the assumption that only bad things happen in the Waylyn. She's tired of shootings and drug deals taking center stage.

"I've met a lot of wonderful people that live here. They're hardworking," she told the young man.

Crime happens everywhere, she explained. "It’s how you react to it."

Reach Angie Jackson at 843-937-5705. Follow her on Twitter at @angiejackson23. 

Angie Jackson covers crime and breaking news for The Post and Courier. She previously covered the same beat for the Grand Rapids Press and in Michigan. When she’s not reporting, Angie enjoys teaching yoga and exploring the outdoors.