Devin “DW” Williams was born August 29, 1992 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. His mother is Dawn Lewis (Mundell) of Red Rock, Oklahoma. She is a Native American woman with strong heritage to the Otoe-Missouria Tribe and Bear Clan specifically. Dawn Lewis was able to overcome many obstacles and not only be the first in her family to graduate college, but also receive her master’s degree and raise six children as a single mother. DW is very proud of his Native heritage and grows out the top portion of his hair endlessly to connect with those set of ancestors that were able endure the hardships of the Trail of Tears and arrive at their relocation reservation in Red Rock, Oklahoma. His hair can only be cut if there is a great personal loss or tragedy. His father is Tevin Williams Sr. of New Orleans, Louisiana. He is an African-American man with heritage to the first ships of French slaves that arrived in the Louisiana Territory. His great grandmother actually sold her house in the French Quarter for $500 when the African-Americans were coerced to relocate to the area that is now known as 9th ward.
Tevin Williams Sr. was able to overcome many obstacles and receive a scholarship to play at the HBCU Langston University in Langston, Oklahoma. Tevin Williams Sr., is a proud member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. DW is proud of his New Orleans heritage and spirituality that has been passed down to him from so many resilient people. DW is also proud of his generational ties to the NPHC, being immersed in the culture of the “Divine 9” since he was 6, and forged his own path in graduate school becoming a member of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. in Spring of 2015. DW grew up in two separate households, with 18 total siblings, with two very different ethnic cultures and beliefs and he attributes adapting to two separate worlds to his love for diversity and bringing people from cultures together.
DW originally went to undergraduate school for Microbiology/Pre-Med and wanted to be an epidemiologist after medical school. His assigned freshman mentor was a member of the prominent McQuarters family of Tulsa who taught him the history of Black Wall Street and what took place during the Race Massacre of 1921. He also took his first sociology class and fell in love with the subject because he learned the science and history behind so decisions that were made for his people without any representation by his people. This is when DW changed his major to Sociology and graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science in Applied Sociology and a minor in Psychology. He was then admitted to graduate school at Langston University OKC in their Rehabilitation Counseling program. This is where he met his mentor, the late Willard Pitts, and joined the Brotherhood of Phi Beta Sigma in Spring of 2015.
DW worked throughout college and graduate school in the mental health field and various capacities including house manager for a group home for adults with developmental disabilities, as a mental health tech at Integris Mental Health, an internship on the Sexual Trauma and Rehabilitation, and a Child Welfare Specialist II (permanency planning) for DHS before graduating with his Master’s of Science in Spring of 2016. After a few more specialized graduate courses that summer he became eligible for his License Professional Counselor Supervision start at the beginning of August making him a mental health therapist at the age of 23; the youngest LPC candidate at the time.
Moving to the 918
DW and his ex-wife, Sarah Williams, began expecting their first child soon after and the decision was made to buy Sarah’s late grandmother’s house and move to Muskogee to be closer to the maternal support system. Being from OKC, DW did not want to work outside an urban area, so he began looking for work in Tulsa as a therapist and found A New Way Counseling Center. This was the only mental health counseling agency on Greenwood at the time, being established in 2011, and they offered him a position working at Traice Academy, an alternative school located in North Tulsa.
This was a dream come true because this was the population that had been close to heart due his personal background as well as the history he learned years prior about the area. This is also where he met his future business partner, Sara Rivero, who was the minority partner and daughter of the founder, Richard DeSirey. DW was able to collaborate and revolutionize a trauma informed approach to minority students in public schools called “The Therapeutic Classroom.” This program was in three schools when DW joined A New Way and in March of 2017 and is now over 20 schools in the area and A New Way has over 55 therapists currently with multiple programs. Sara Rivero kept her word and gave DW 50% of the company he helped build after her father’s retirement in August 2020, and DW later became the CEO of A New Way in August of 2021; effectively making A New Way a black owned business.
DW’s son Solomon, nickname Solo, was born in August of 2017 and has been DW’s motivation ever since. His mother and father are no longer married but they remain friends have a healthy coparenting relationship and a schedule that benefits him. Healing generational trauma and establishing generational wealth has not only been what he has been doing in the community but what he also has applied to his own life. DW’s private room, The Solo Room, is named after his son and 20% of the profits made there will go directly to his college fun. DW’s is legally a restaurant and bar, and kids are allowed so you might see Solo running around and saying hi to all his customers if he’s ever in the venue. He still wants to give them their money back because he is happy to make new friends.
Shifting from therapy to mentoring
DW took a step back from therapy after losing dozens of former clients to the prison system and four who have died from gun violence; the last being a mentee of over 3 years. He started the 501 c(3) named “One Tulsa” with the hope of starting a foundation that was dedicated for all Tulsans to take ownership of all of Tulsa’s socioeconomic problems no matter what part of town it’s in. The job is too great for one person or one part of the community so the whole community needs to come together to address the needs of the community. The program that is being supported by that foundation is Troop 1921. This program is a Boys Scouts of America Cub Scout Pack and Boy Scout Troop that is tailored towards minority youth living in an urban environment. The program covers all out-pocket expenses and transportation needs if necessary. DW has stringent qualifications for this program and only employees or direct guardians can directly interact with the boys. The employees all have mental health background and have been vetted for certain cultural competencies. This program is in year 2 and currently has 50 boys. It will be open to more boys, and eventually girls, once it is safe to expand.
DW was exposed to bars and night life at an early age. In his small town growing up it was normal for patrons to bring their children to the beer taverns to help them drive home. He even turned 13 in a bar playing pool with his maternal grandmother. It was DW’s first dream to own his own bar because it was always fun and exciting and there seemed to be so much money being made. In college he hosted numerous house parties with his friends to make extra money and provided safe entertainment for his classmates to decompress. When he was in grad school he had 80 hours a week of responsibilities between work, school, and internship so he would go out his one “off night” a week and the traveled every holiday. This is where he was exposed to the nightlife of various cities and cultures and things that he would want in his bar. After working on Greenwood for over 5 years, DW has dreamed of finding a way to revitalize the district in any way he could.
One day he realized that area of downtown that the Historic District is in is very popular nightlife designation but there isn’t any nightlife. That’s when he reached out to his landlords for his other business and asked if there were any locations that could handle a bar. After touring the space in February 2021, the full vision came to him design a speakeasy since if there was a bar on Greenwood in the early 20’s it would have been illegal due to prohibition. The building getting its historic landmark designation set in the same time period solidified the idea. DW believes that minority communities have been stigmatized out of certain markets intentionally to divert dollars out of communities and so by establishing a sophisticated music venue that holds true to Greenwood Culture would be a major step in showing what we’re capable of. Future phases of the speakeasy will include a microbrewery.
DW hopes his legacy is one that highlight the resilience of all the ancestors that came before him that had to endure for him to make it here. He also hopes that the fruits of that his personal resilience inspires others to tap into their own inner strength. DW hopes that through his mental health agency and nonprofit, he is a catalyst to change in the way services are funded and provided to minority communities. Through his entrepreneurial endeavors he hopes that other people will be inspired to tap into whatever gifts they possess and endure what they must to achieve their dreams.