Gwendolyn Williams Deru (born June 1949 in Fairfield) is a long-time contributor of the "People, Places, and Things" column for The Birmingham Times, and the founder and owner of marketing and public relations firm DeRu & Associates.
Gwen grew up in Fairfield as the youngest of six siblings born to a businessman and nurse / seamstress who came to the city from Uniontown, Perry County. She graduated from Fairfield Industrial High School and went on to complete a bachelor of science in psychology and public administration at Tennessee State University in Nashville. She has pursued additional studies at UAB.
DeRu has spent much of her life researching her family's background, including Native American and African ancestry. She lived for several years in Africa. She often traveled with her son, LeBoise. With the connections she made there and in the Caribbean she founded Alkebu-Lan Images, an importer of arts, crafts and other items.
After returning to the United States in 1985, DeRu worked as an organist and music instructor. In the summers of 1987 and 1988 she taught piano in Swahili at Fish University in Nashville, Tennessee. She moved back to Birmingham and founded her marketing company in 1992. A year later, she joined The Lewis Group part-time, eventually moving most of her clients there, where she operated semi-independently.
The shooting death of her grandson, Le'Kameren, in April 2022 led her and her family to launch the nonprofit Kings Among Men in his memory.
- Daniel, Nicole S. (January 4, 2023) "Columnist Gwen DeRu: A Birmingham Institution." The Birmingham Times