My Hometown Bestie

My Hometown Bestie is the kind of forever friend that you grew up with, creating fun memories. No matter where I am in the world or how long it’s been, we always pick right back up where we left off. I met Andre Williams, affectionally known as Dre (Dre-ski if we’re talking about our favorite movie Brown Sugar), in middle school, but it was during the summer that we really became cool. Being the math geeks that we were, we both signed up for summer math classes to get ahead. He, along with two other goofy guys in our crew, would tease me to no end. I was quiet and shy, but that made no difference to the three of them who loved to prove how gullible I could be. The jokes are what made a boring class fun and bonded our friendship to withstand all four years of high school, and then some.

Andre and Leslie, image courtesy of Leslie Matthews

Andre Williams and Leslie Matthews at 10-yr. high school reunion. Image Courtesy of Leslie Matthews

Dre was the starting Center for the football team, and I, the Setter for the volleyball squad – both essential supporting roles. Our curricular paths intertwining, we always had, at least, one class together each semester and never sat far apart. Our classmates must have thought we were dating, and if they didn’t they sure tried to hook us up. Eventually, they succeeded, and we went to homecoming junior year together, but the friendship is what we would always go back to. It’s just impossible to think about those formative high school years without grinning and reminiscing on the craziness Dre would cook up to get me and others to laugh.

Fast forward to college, we were both supposed to head down to NC A&T to pursue mechanical engineering degrees. I kept to the plan and Dre ended up going to Ohio State on a full ride scholarship, only never to finish. Everything happens just as it’s supposed to in my opinion. While I floated around Southeast Asia in a big tin can (Navy lingo for warship), Dre settled into a mission that was just as important – using that infectious laugh of his to make kids smile. Never selfish, he has an affinity for children of any age, especially for the three boys that have called him uncle since before I’ve known him. He’s worked nine years total as a pre-school and daycare teacher, as well as a home healthcare aid for an autistic child. Yep, that’s my friend Dre, a strong black male role model, instilling hope in our youngest generation. The brother is smooth and talented too. He’s spent many nights sharing his insightful poetry at any spoken word event that would have him. He can draw too!

Andre painting art for a client. Image Courtesy of Andre Williams

Andre painting art for a client. Image Courtesy of Andre Williams

As selfless as he is, God saw fit to allow Dre’s body to be struck with Dermatomyositis, a debilitating muscular disorder that temporarily weakens the body. It just didn’t seem fair when the flair-ups began. How could someone that brings joy to so many have such painful and energy-draining days that he can’t even get out of bed? Again, nothing is by accident or chance, in my opinion. God only tests those who are strong enough to carry the load, even when our physical bodies get weak. One day Dre will collect his poems of struggle, hope, and love into a book to inspire the world. For now, he’s turned his love of drawing and painting into an impressive entrepreneurial venture. Many have bought his soulful renditions of black life through art for their homes. Others have enjoyed a night of laughter, wine, and painting at his infamous paint nights in Columbus, OH.

When I think of my time growing up in Akron, OH, I think of snow days, the West Akron parade, walking to Mr. Pantry’s to get some Jo-Jo’s (potato wedges), and my best friend, Dre. Poet. Artist. Entrepreneur. Child Advocate. Devoted Uncle. Comedian. All Around Good Guy. And my Hometown Bestie. If you’re wondering ladies, yes, he’s currently single!

Written by Leslie Matthews, Contributing Writer, #mygirlsquad

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