The Man behind ‘Pushing Boulders’.

“We all have talents, we all have dreams. We owe it to ourselves to use those talents to pursue our dreams.”

Award winning Social Philosopher and Poet, Athol Williams, has solidified his place in history once again, winning the Sol Plaatje European Union Poetry Award twice in a row and launching his autobiography ‘Pushing Boulders’, all in one week.


The award-winning poem ‘Visit at tea time’ is a fictionalized account of an actual event, uncovering the issue of rape, in a South African context and the social influences surrounding these crimes. His autobiography ‘Pushing Boulders’,  is one of self-belief, fiery dreams, and endless possibilities.

Athol Williams grew up in Mitchell’s Plain, where he completed his secondary education at  Westridge High. In 1993 he started working as one of the first colored graduate Engineers in the country, on the backdrop of Apartheid, Athol experienced harsh racism;

“I had to fight to be recognized and respected as a professional, but all I got was ostracized and continued to do menial jobs that did not require a degree in engineering.”

His frustration at the time, propelled him to further his studies abroad, where he attended the London School of Economics and Political Science, London Business School, MIT Sloan School of Management, Harvard University and currently Oxford University, where he is pursuing another degree in Political Philosophy, to add to his long list of accolades, which include four Masters degrees.

In 2010, Athol decided to sell most of his possessions, including his home in Johannesburg, in order to focus his attention on contributing to improving society.

“I was guided by my personal mission which is; by my words and deeds to enable and inspire others to thrive.”

Athol Williams distributing ‘Oaky and the Sun’ books.

Athol, along with his wife Taryn, founded and personally funded education-related organizations, particularly focusing on the “very real need that children have in under-resourced communities like Mitchell’s Plain and Soweto.” Athol  explained;

“These children don’t have access to age-appropriate reading books and they come from homes without books. I also came to realize that children need positive, uplifting input to counter all the negativity they have in  their lives.”

It was these realizations that gave birth to the Read to Rise organization. Athol started writing the ‘Oaky series’, in order to keep book costs to a minimum and ensure appropriate content. To date, Read to Rise has distributed over 50 000 new books to Grade 2’s and 3’s in Cape Town.

Athol Williams has some thoughts to share with the people of Mitchell’s Plain;

We all have talents, we all have dreams.  We owe it to ourselves to use those talents to pursue our dreams.  We need to ignore the voices that say we can’t achieve greatness because if anything, my experience has shown that with self-belief and resilience, we can achieve greatness.  You must decide the nature of the life you want, don’t allow others to decide for you and then pursue that life.”

Follow Athol Williams on his Website, LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook account.

Check out the Pushing Boulders website, for more information about the book, the author and purchasing. If you are interested in donating to the Read to Rise organization, please check out their Website.


By: Tatum-Lee Louw



Tatum-Lee is a Born Again Christian, a writer, blogger, English tutor, and digital content producer. She recently completed her BA Communications degree at the University of the Western Cape, where she completed her first research proposal, focused on Multilingual diversity in the Colored community.


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