Notable Author Cheryl Wills Shares a Heroic Family Tale

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In celebration of Black History Month, author, talk show host, motivational speaker and NY1 television journalist Cheryl Wills shared a triumphant story of emancipation with Bellport High School students during an assembly held in Ebersole Auditorium on February 27. Overflowing with lessons of perseverance and empowerment, Wills’ overall message was that each of the students have richness and power to do their best to succeed and change the world.

“Think about the courage of your family and move forward,” Wills said. 

Wills prefaced her story with feelings of despair as a teenager in Uniondale, New York who had lost her father to a motorcycle accident. She rose to the occasion when genealogical research revealed that her enslaved ancestors transitioned from slavery to freedom during the American Civil War. She told students the story of Sandy Wills, her great-great-great grandfather, who served in President Lincoln’s United States Colored Troops from 1863-1866.

“I learned that I have fighting power in my family,” Wills told the students. “Making the impossible possible is what Black History is about.” 

Wills encouraged the students to find out about their families’ roots, but to remember that they set their own definition of who they are as long as they live. 

At the end of the ceremony, Wills shared the books she had written, including “Die Free: A Heroic Family Tale” (2010), “The Emancipation of Grandpa Sandy Wills” (2016) and “Emma” (2020). However, students were most taken aback at a copy of the Emancipation Proclamation she shared and which was procured from a wealthy collector.