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AllEyesOnDC

Building a Black Nation, One Post at a Time

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August 2017

Back-to-School Festival at the Thurgood Marshall Center Draws Large Crowd

*Photo courtesy of Stacey Palmer.* 

This week marked the beginning of Samuel Griffiths’ daughter’s first year in elementary school and he wanted her to look the part as she starts her academic journey.

On Saturday, the father-daughter pair left their home and walked around the corner to the Thurgood Marshall Center in historic Shaw where, upon walking in its main auditorium, a hair stylist braided the young lady’s hair, free of charge.

For the rest of the afternoon, Griffiths and his daughter enjoyed the sights and sounds of the center’s inaugural back-to-school festival that featured live karaoke, a twa kwon do demonstration, a book bag giveaway, and a portrait artist, and more.

“My daughter is an overachiever. She’s going to the first grade and has already had a lot of accomplishments since she was two or three,” Griffiths, a 10-year resident of the Shaw community, told AllEyesOnDC. “It’s always welcoming to have things like this event in the community. It shows a lot of concern for the kids. [The community partners] are helping them get started with school on the right foot,” he added.

Griffith counted among hundreds of parents, children, and community members, who attended the festival on Saturday, enjoyed a smorgasbord of activities and took advantage of community resources. In the auditorium, parents sat and talked among one another as children of various ages frolicked and danced to the latest trap-pop tunes emanating through jumbo speakers.

Hair stylists and barbers braided and shaped up children’s hair throughout the day. Down the hall, a resident chef gave a healthy eating demonstration. The Thurgood Marshall Center also coordinated on-site HIV testing. Pastor Eric Zimmerman of True Foundation Apolistic Ministries in Clinton, Maryland opened the program with a prayer. In her remarks, Dr. Elizabeth Primas, program manager for the NNPA/ESSA Media Campaign provided clarity around the Every Student Succeeds Act, a federal law taking effect this school year that will allow school districts more flexibility in their policies.

Outside, festival organizers morphed the parking lot into a kiddie wonderland, equipped with an icicle vendor, moon bounce, and fire truck. Vendors sold African fabrics and health products. Throughout much of the afternoon, Artist, musician and local favorite Reesa Renee walked through the premises, mic in hand, shouting out revelers and keeping the mood upbeat. Ward 1 D.C. Council member Brianne Nadeau also paid a visit and parlayed with community members. LaSalle D. Leffall Jr., MD, FACS of Howard University Cancer Center served as the festival’s presenting sponsor.

“The best part of the festival was the haircuts for kids,” Shavon Collier told AllEyesOnDC, referencing Darnell Palmer, a local barber who trimmed young men’s hair well into the evening. Collier, a Southeast resident, spent much of the afternoon watching her children play in the auditorium. “We have a lot of low-income families that can’t afford school supplies and other things for their children. This year, I want my children to do what they’re supposed to do academically and get to the level they’re supposed to,” added Collier, a mother of three.

John El-Badr, curator at the Thurgood Marshall Center who brought his daughter and grandchildren, chatted with community members and enjoyed an icicle under the shade. For the historian, the back-to-school festival, located just two blocks from the U Street corridor, conjured memories of what Washingtonians once called Black Broadway.

“Anything that’s positive for our youth, we need to do as many times as possible,” El-Badr told AllEyesOnDC. “Marcus Garvey came to this area. John Thompson came here to play ball. Langston Hughes was here. We have to fight for Shaw, Howard [University] and our institutions like Ben’s Chili Bowl, Industrial Bank, and others that are still here. It’s still Black Broadway, even with the new stakeholders. Events like this are important to show that Black people still live in the community,” El-Badr added.

This year, the Thurgood Marshall Center solely launched the back-to-school festival for the first time after hosting it on its premises for the two consecutive years with the Greater Washington Urban League (GWUL). After GWUL announced it would move the festival to its 14th Street headquarters earlier this year, Thomasina Yearwood, president/CEO of the Thurgood Marshall Center Trust, as part of an effort to meet community demand for the annual gathering, decided to continue the project.

“The kids are prepared, looking good, and ready to learn. That’s the first step,” Stacey Palmer, lead coordinator of the festival, told AllEyesOnDC. “I know the burden school shopping places on your pocketbook. This is why we do it. The community needed it and they got to enjoy a wonderful festival. All the vendors had value and gave the parents what they wanted. I put love into it and I hope people felt the welcoming spirit in that room,” Palmer, also founder of Executive Virtual Assistance, added.

For more information about the Thurgood Marshall Center, visit tmcsh.org.

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My Memories of the Noble Ancestor Dick Gregory (1932-2017)

*Courtesy photo of the late, great comedian and activist Baba Dick Gregory* 

Earlier tonight, AllEyesOnDC learned the unfortunate news of Baba Dick Gregory’s transition. Baba Gregory had been ill and hospitalized for some time; social media postings this week and a family statement calling for prayer foreshadowed the conclusion of an exemplary and impactful life.

A comedian, social critic, activist, author and diet adviser, Baba Gregory made a mark in the Black world from the start of his professional journey. He broke barriers in comedy and challenged America in its face so that it had no chance but to take him seriously. Later on, those efforts expanded into other realms, some of which I had a chance to see in my less than 30 years.

Baba Gregory weighed in on the issues of the day, and opened Our eyes to the U.S, empire’s dealings. Many of Us, because We had experienced the hardships of this system, agreed and embraced Gregory’s messages, and examined Our situation lightheartedly, even if for a second.

Years ago, as a graduate student, I met Baba Gregory at a store located next to Farragut North Metro Station in Downtown D.C. As a reporter for the Washington Informer, I interviewed Baba Gregory at a fundraiser he headlined at Wanda’s Salon in Shaw. Later interactions, though brief, took place in CVS not too far from the station, and in a WPFW studio right after wrapping up a session with a brother and mentor. Last year, I caught a glimpse of Baba Gregory leaving Sankofa Video Books & Cafe on Georgia Avenue about a year ago, walking slowly with the swag of an elder statesman.

Those moments remain etched in my mind because, even with his worldwide fame and influence, Baba Gregory still walked among the people in the community. His progeny, artist Ayanna Gregory among them, did the same, gaining Our trust and respect.

At a time where Our rich and famous help maintain the status quo, Baba Gregory’s actions on and off the stage should serve as inspiration and a blueprint for what must be done when given a platform.

Rest on Baba Dick Gregory. Many thanks for your service and may those of Us still fighting the Babylon system walk in your footsteps.

The Youth Speak!

** watermarked photo of Congress Heights metro station** 

Though young people today are speaking out more about police brutality, community violence, and displacement of Black people in major cities, the ways of the world still corrupt those who don’t understand the historical context of these events and how they dictate the code of conduct in their social circles. That, along with lack of knowledge makes them fall prey to forces that can negatively alter their life.

This summer, two youth took on the call to learn more about their revolutionary Black/African heritage and represent the Black teenage perspective on AllEyesOnDC. Our AllEyesOnDC youth representatives Roneisha and Ma’kal learned about the writing process, followed the production of a community news program, toured historic DC. staples, and saw organizing in action.

One of those instances, highlighted in this piece, came out of an experience with the New Black Panther Party less than a week before their march for affordable housing in early July. Roneisha and Ma’kal, still learning about Black Nationalism and Pan-Africanism, as we all are, soaked in the sights and sounds of that July evening.

Below are their reflections:

Yes, Black People are Special

By Roneisha B. 

AllEyesOnDC Contributing Writer

Earlier this summer during a gathering hosted by the New Black Panther Party, I learned about how special it is to be a Black person and that you can only move forward by yourself. Black people are special because we have so much history and there could be a lot of information we don’t know.

Roneisha Bennett
Roneisha B.

From the meeting I now know much about the important people who came before me who did what they needed to do so the people of this generation could be free and have equal rights. White supremacy has been trying to take over our country and we have to stop it. But we can only stop it if we are united as one whole. Nothing can be done if our people are beefing with each other instead of the opposition.

One person that stood out to me was Marcus Garvey. He was important because he was an activist and the leader of the Pan-Africanist movement. He did what he needed to do during his time so the people that come after him can take on the same actions as him. Things like this aren’t taught in schools and should be because this is the history that we need to be learning. This is the history of what our people did and how it would affect us then and now. If things like this aren’t taught then the younger generation is walking around with knowledge that isn’t important. The young aren’t aware of information like this because schools only teach you certain stuff instead of the more important history.

 More young people should attend meetings like this because it makes them aware of what’s happening in the world and how it can affect them and their lives. Because of white people trying to take over, opportunities for African Americans are lessening unless we fight for what we want. You have to be your own leader and take initiative. Nothing is going to be handed out so we have to go and get it if we want it instead of letting the opposition take the power away.

We need to follow in the footsteps of those important role models and fight like our elders did. They didn’t let anything get in their way; they fought through violence but still found a way to get what they needed. Instead of trying to do exactly what they did, we can do things in the same manner they did.They aren’t our greatest leaders but we are our greatest leader. In order to do this and achieve our goals, the youth need to be one instead of taking sides. That slows us down and isn’t helpful to one another. Lending a helping hand can move the pace faster.

This is an important affair in my life because I thought activists should do the same exact thing that our ancestors did but instead you should do things differently but the same way they did it to get more of an effective outcome in general. What I mean by that is making change that will have a positive outcome for sure. All in all the whole beginning of the meeting is important to the youth because it affects their future.

Speak Up and Speak Out

By Ma’kal F. 

AllEyesOnDC Contributing Writer

What I learned during the New Black Panther Party’s meeting in July about black liberation is that it only represents Blacks and their own belief that Black people are just as good as people of other racial backgrounds. The Black Panthers started a movement about Black pride. It was a movement boost ideologies that encourage Black people to celebrate Black culture and embrace their African heritage.

IMG_1371
Ma’kal F.

The New Black Panthers also spoke loudly with their words so that everybody could hear them. I think the Black Panthers represents speaking loudly. I speak softly because when I was a child, my mom always told me to be quiet. All those words made me the person I am today. It’s hard for me to speak loudly because when I speak in a low voice I think everybody can hear me. It’s quiet in my household so if I were to say something everyone there could hear me. It’s not right for a person to not be able to talk loudly in their own house.

That why I thank the New Black Panther Party for helping me. If it wasn’t for the New Black Panthers, I wouldn’t know how to speak up and use my mouth. If you don’t speak up, no one can hear you Black Panther party was a revolutionary Black nationalist and socialist organization. The panthers represent courage , valor and power.

 What I also learned about Black Panther is that’s every time members of the New Black Panther Party greet each other, they say Black power. Black power is a slogan and a name for various associated ideologies aimed at achieving self- determination for people of African descent. What I would tell younger kids from my learning experience is to speak up and use your words to make sure everyone can hear you. If they can’t hear you there, is no point in talking.

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