A crowded Bedford-Stuyvesant brownstone encompassed the scene of a gathering of many community members in honor of both P.E.A.C.E. Health Center and a longtime community stalwart, Michael Kofi Mulezi Hooper. To say that there were many people present is perhaps an understatement. At one point, the front door had to be open to cool the large crowd that had assembled. P.E.A.C.E. Health Center is a holistic health space where people can visit and benefit from alternative healing practices. It was founded in 1992 by Shadidi Beatrice Kinsey, D.Ac., Dipl. Ac. (NCCAOM), a New York State Licensed Acupuncturist, or “Dr. Bea,” as she is affectionately called by her patients and colleagues.
For 27 years, P.E.A.C.E. Health Center has been a fixture in the Bedford-Stuyvesant community, providing therapies to help those suffering from various ailments better manage their health maladies. To help ensure that the P.E.A.C.E. Health Center continues to be a mainstay in the community, an annual fundraiser is held at the center itself. At the fundraiser, a plethora of testimonies were given by patients along with those who work at the center as health aides, thereby giving credence to the effectiveness of the remedies offered at P.E.A.C.E.
Rasheeda Ali, affectionately called “Mama Rasheeda,” had nothing but positive things to say about her experience at the health center; first as a patient, then as an employee. She specifically said that her nearly 15 years with P.E.A.C.E. has, for her, been a “love fest.” Mama Rasheeda first went to P.E.A.C.E. because she has tendonitis. Since then, she has not looked back and is now an assistant to both Dr. Bea and another practitioner at P.E.A.C.E., Dr. Ali Talib Abdullah.
Additionally, a female professional dancer named Jacqueline gave her testimony. Jacqueline shared with the attendees the story of her friend introducing her to the center nearly ten years ago. This dancer and longtime Brooklyn resident also added that she is a “lifelong” patient as she has found the therapies offered at P.E.A.C.E. to be exceedingly useful in helping to manage her hip-related health issues. Specifically, this dancer had a hip-replacement and said that the treatment that she received at P.E.A.C.E. leading up to her hip-replacement surgery made life a bit more bearable. At the end, Jacqueline showed just how far she has come health-wise by doing a dance that required that she (excessively) move her hip.
Just as Black Health is advocated for at P.E.A.C.E., so is its close cousin, Black Wealth. Consequently, there were several African-American vendors who gave short presentations on their products. Among them was Kwasi Mensah, a natural health enthusiast and Multi Pure distributor who talked about the water purification system that he has sold for over 25 years. His wife, Earline Mensah, who was also present, gave a testimony on how effective the water is as she uses it every day. A presentation was also given on a sanitary napkin product by an African-American businesswoman, Josephine. Josephine both verbally described and showed a visual demonstration on how much more effective her product, Cherish, is than the leading sanitary brands. In this case, the proof was in the pudding that was her live demonstration.
Included in the program for the evening was the recognition of a notable community activist, Michael Kofi Hooper. Recognizing Mr. Hooper was one of the highlights (if not “thee” highlight) of the evening. Aside from the fundraiser itself, recognizing Hooper was one of the primary reasons why so many were gathered, filling up two floors of the brownstone that doubles as the P.E.A.C.E. Health Center. Dr. Bea gave a gloating tribute to Hooper, saying that, “When I think of Kwanzaa, I think of Michael.” She goes on to add that “Michael always put Black people first”, beginning back at his days as a student at Howard University. Moreover, Dr. Bea called Michael “our black candle,’ underscoring his contribution to the Black community as the black candle is the first candle lit during Kwanzaa.
When Michael received the Uhuru Sasa Award (translated to mean Freedom Now), he was extremely grateful and overwhelmed by the standing ovation given to him by the fundraiser-goers. In his speech, he stressed that African – Americans must “go from articulation to action.” To talk about something is one thing, but to do something about it is another. Michael’s entire life has been spent in action; action that has proved to be beneficial to the growth and improvement of our community. The honoree of the night spoke briefly about his activism in the community stating that he is the Chairman of the Kwanzaa Collective and founder of the Umoja Food Collective. From his speech, two things are clear. First, one can easily ascertain that Michael is humble because, though he is clearly accomplished and well-respected by his peers, he kept his speech to a minimum. Secondly, it is evident that Hooper is a man of his word as he did not go on in deep, in his own words, “articulation.” Rather, true to his word that espouses living a life of action, Michael handed out literature on one of his latest projects. Unmistakably, even as he is being honored, the betterment of his people take priority over all else. Specifically, Michael was handing out information on a program that he currently has in the works called Roots Revisited. Roots Revisited is a nonprofit, community-based organization founded in 1984 aimed at providing elementary, middle and high schools students with positive educational enrichment. Overwhelmed by the tribute given to him, Michael humbly and very emotionally reminded those in attendance the first of those who paved the way for him, some of whom are now ancestors. In staying true to his love for his people, Michael offered, “We [people of African ancestry] were the first ones on earth, and we will be the last ones.” Above all, his statement served as a positive affirmation of the power, strength and resiliency of African-Americans. Michael closed by reiterating the popular saying, “A people united can never be defeated,” which everyone chanted in unison.
Vendor of Multi Pure water purification product, Kwasi Mensah can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Josephine, the distributor of Cherish, can be reached at nspirednetwork.com/beyond wellness/646-319-8888. For more information on Roots Revisited, Michael Hooper’s organization, contact 718-778-0009, Ext. 17 and ask for Cory who will assist you.
Priscilla Mensah is an avid reader and scholar whose passions include community development and empowerment. She can be reached at email@example.com.