John Coleman | Contributor
Derren Williams may have developed the ‘rules’ for his community of Family & Friends but they are the people who are maintaining them—he has established a wonderful model of how to bring and keep people together. Derren, who was born and raised in Louisiana, may not be widely recognized as a community builder either in Louisiana where he lived a slower lifestyle or since his resettlement in the Inland Empire—he moved to Moreno Valley during a period of rapid growth when there was still a lot going on—but, he is a highly respected community organizer to those who love and know him best. Derren, a quiet man by nature, considered more of a doer than a big talker, began building a community in his Mo Val backyard through a series of small local gatherings. He began by inviting extended family members and a small group of friends to his birthday celebrations—being from Louisiana he loved traditional Louisiana food—especially crab. These were small local events, nothing loud, nothing fancy. “No cutting up. No messing around,” so to speak. The events were held at a time and place where you could bring your babies, children, aunties and grandmas—all the elders—everyone was family! Over the years, the event grew and changed, though still no big deal (there was never any advertising). The affair was no longer about celebrating Derren’ birthday, but celebrating being part of a community of Friends & Family. Ten years ago, the event was moved to the renowned and renovated Fairmont Park in Riverside. Today, there is still no advertising or changes to Derren’s basic rules. Especially his primary one, “No playing the fool.” Just participate, share in the costs, help with the planning and volunteering to help ensure everyone has a great time at the Friends & Family Annual Crab Cook-out. If you enjoy Louisiana style crab, fried fish, hot sausage, red beans and rice, corn on the cob, etc. etc. etc., served in a refillable roasting pan and great company, and have connections to Derrin’s growing community of Family & Friends, check it out . . . birthday presents are NOT required.