August 18, 2007
Dear Friends and Family,
I’m a little numb after having received the news of Mzee Moyo’s passing. This is sad news to have to share today.
It has been suggested to me, on more than one occasion, that maybe I should leave my sentiments out of the notices that I send about people’s deaths. Today, I don’t know if that’s a piece of advice I can adhere to. It just wouldn’t seem right to not share with people how instrumental Mzee (pronounced “m-zay”) was in helping to sustain and promote African-ness here in Brooklyn and beyond. And perhaps this is selfish, but I want people to know how instrumental he was in helping me develop my own cultural arts foundation. There are countless numbers of people who he has mentored and supported and I’m just one example. Even still, I think it’s important to our collective well-being that we share personal stories of people who represent light and progress in the world. Mzee taught me a lot about life, and especially about the arts and activist communities here in New York. Though I was born in NYC, I spent my teenage and young adult years in LA and WDC. When I returned home in the early 90’s, it was Mzee who gave me my first job after I left the public school system – determined to be some kind of entrepreneur. It was mostly through him that I was given the opportunity to practically blend my love of the arts and my burning desire to embrace people of African ancestry. When he hired me as Office Assistant at the International African Arts Festival (IAAF) – the organization he co-founded over three decades ago – I was able to do my life’s work and pay bills. Though challenging, the ability to work for and service my community grounded me ways I probably still don’t fully know. Beyond employment, Mzee provided a critical platform for me and helped me to broaden my understanding of the world. The fatherly, loving encouragement and guidance that he gave me, coupled with his insights and pearls of wisdom, plus his confidence in my ability grow within the organization and to contribute to our collective struggle, proved to be tremendously empowering and humbling at the same time.
I am not 100% clear on what’s the best or right way to properly announce someone’s death or to express one’s sorrow…especially via email. Please know that my most sincere intent is to add some light onto Mzee’s name and legacy and to pronounce my love for him, his incredible hard work, and his dedication to Black people. It’s hard to be quiet when considering the scope of his work and its positive influence on so many people’s lives.
I’d like to join with Basir Mchawi, via his official statement below, and invite you to attend Mzee’s homegoing service. Basir is the current head of the IAAF and is also a producer and on-air host of WBAI’s Education at the Crossroads radio program. Please read his message from earlier today.
415 Atlantic Avenue
Brooklyn, New York
Thursday, August 23, 2007.
The viewing will begin at 4:00 pm.
The service will follow at 6:00 pm.
The family is currently working out the details of where cards and donations can be sent. That information will follow.
Spread the word far and wide so that we can celebrate Mzee’s life and give him a proper send off. Light peace and progress to the spirit of Mzee Moyo (Gerald Smith)