I was fortunate to attend a celebration, ‘Kwame Leo Lillard Day,’ at First Community Church (pastored by Elder Glen V. Clay) acknowledging and honoring Kwame Leo Lillard, a true hero in my eyes. All too often, we give accolades and praise to those being honored by a special group whom we know has done little if anything for the community if the truth be told. This time, they definitely got it right. I find it a rewarding privilege to honor a real legitimate soldier in the community. I know personally that he has given his all to uplift his community and people. I am referring to a humble legend that has walked the talk and worked tirelessly to help bring justice and equity to all and to make this a better world.
He unapologetically stands up and fights against the injustice and discriminatory practices he sees, especially those leveled upon the African American community. He works diligently to serve his community regardless of the fallout he may receive from opposing forces who may view him as a threat trying to better the playing field for all people. He makes me proud to be an African American.
He is a staunch supporter in presenting his race in a positive and respectful manner and working diligently to bring us together. His work with our Black youth is unparalleled and he has a strong passion to instill a sense of pride and dignity by helping our people (especially our young) know and share our history. He knows that once people of color really know their greatness, no one will be able to define them and they will reach their true potential.
I truly feel anyone who really knows Kwame, knows his commitment to raise Black pride and consciousness. And guess what? He hasn’t sold out or been compromised in his efforts to advocate in the best interests of African Americans, unlike so many of those I see being honored, who have secret alliances or agendas with those seeking to oppress us. No, Kwame Lillard is from the remnants of a rare fabric—a real warrior, whom I feel cannot be compromised or bought out.
Kwame doesn’t personally seek public recognition or accolades or awards. He is quick to give praise and honor to those who came before him or were a vital part in his life, prompting him to carry on the fight for justice and equality. His main goal is to make a difference in making this a better world and passing the baton to our younger generations. Kwame has fought a long and arduous fight and only desires to awaken new soldiers to fill the shoes of those, like him, who have made it possible to enjoy some of the liberties we take for granted every day.
During his college days, Kwame (along with 13 others from Tennessee State University) put their lives on the line to be a freedom rider—riding in racist southern cities reeking with hate to integrate the interstate busing system. His work along with others is legendary, and it is a story that needs to be told for all Nashvillans. Kwame’s whole life has been devoted to bringing about Black consciousness and justice and equality to better the world for all.
I have worked on numerous committees where Kwame was advocating for the homeless, the disenfranchised, education, housing, health care, and a fair living wage. I would go as far as to say Kwame has been a self-appointed minister, tirelessly advocating for people in the community (something few ministers are willing to do for political reasons). Perhaps one of Kwame’s biggest accomplishments is as chairman of the annual African Street Festival, which is usually around the third week in September. His love for promoting African American culture is highly lauded, setting a precedent to be emulated.
On Sunday, June 22, we were able to honor a real hero and community leader. Thank you Kwame, and those like you, who do us proud.