Lead Story West Edition

Salute to service, sacrifice at Leimert Park Memorial Day event

LOS ANGELES – Rhythmic beats of African drums and scents of sage and incense filled the crisp spring air May 27, making it clear that this was not your traditional Memorial Day celebration. 

It remained, however, a symbolic tribute to thousands of black veterans and black ancestors who struggled, sacrificed and sometimes died to produce the freedoms black people enjoy today, event organizers said.

Hundreds gathered in Leimert Park to honor their forebears and to celebrate liberation, health and mental awareness during the second annual Memorial Day Mindfulness Festival. Co-sponsored by the We Can Foundation, the event is intended to empower and educate attendees about black culture while honoring those who fought for liberty in the U.S., Haiti and abroad, event organizers said.

“We curated this event to honor our ancestors [and] veterans, and to teach the millennials our history,” said Eziokwu Washington, 74, the foundation’s vice president.

The afternoon kicked off with a Holistic Self-Care panel, moderated by Nina Womack, founder of Transmedia 360°, a multimedia and branding agency in Inglewood. During the panel, holistic practitioner Farid Zarif said it’s important for black people to break what she called “generational” eating habits.

“Ribs were good for people that couldn’t do any better, but now we’re more affluent than we ever been … in America, but we still eat like slaves,” Zarif said. “If we continue to eat like slaves, we’re going to get slave-like results.”

Herbalist practitioner Askia Muwakkil agreed, adding: “You shouldn’t eat anything in a can in the first place, but if you do, read the ingredients. It says glucose number one, homogenize this, sodium this…

“It says, ‘Negro, I’m going to kill you slowly,’ [and] that’s exactly what it’s getting ready to do — kill you slowly.”

Holistic practitioner Cherilyn Lee added that a lack of forgiveness — and a tendency to cling to anger and personal grudges — also contributes to mental and physical health challenges.

“People are not forgiving. You’ve got to forgive yourself and forgive others if you want to heal,” Lee said.

The day was filled with experiences and opportunities for many participants, including certified nutrition specialist Tracy Pretlow — founder of lifestyle and foodie brand Gbandi Babe — who spent the day networking and promoting her Liberian pepper sauce.

“It’s my mom’s recipe with my finesse on it,” the 27-year-old foodie said. “I’m a proud first-generation Liberian, so I’m out here just paying homage to my heritage.”

Event organizers say they created the acronym H.H.E.E.A.L. to reflect the several aspects of black culture and the needs of the Leimert Park community, namely: History, Health, Education, Economics, Arts and Leadership.

Other event sponsors and organizers included Transmedia 360, Let’s Be Whole, Leimert Park Village Merchants Association, Black Excellence, Womb Warriors, Barbara Morrison Performing Arts Theater, Kingdom Day Parade, the National Council of 100 Black Women, PEACE, AHF and CORE CA.