Dr. E. Faye Williams

Growing up, I learned a lot about Black History.  Of course, I learned some things about Zora Neale Hurston, but nothing about Eatonville, Florida—her hometown. It was not until I began visiting Bus Boys and Poets Restaurant in Washington, DC that I learned about Eatonville. 

I met the owner, Andy Shallal. He named rooms in his restaurant for historic places and figures, and I became curious about the town.  Later I became a member of the Board of the World Conference of Mayors and learned about Historic Black Towns and Settlements. 

The organization holds its annual meeting in Orlando, Florida a few miles from Eatonville, and we always attend the Zora Festival after our conference.  This year we held our meetings in Eatonville and learned so much history! 

Zora Neale Hurston. If you don’t know Zora, let me introduce her.  She is the sister who said, “I think that you will discover that my viewpoint is that I do not consider Negroes as special additives among humanity.  I see us as people, subject to the same desires and emotions as others…That is the way I see Negroes, and that is the way I write about them.”   

I suggest you read a book compiled and edited by Dr. N.Y. Nithiri—our host.  The name of the book is “Zora! A Woman And Her Community.” 

The annual festival is named for Zora Neale Hurston.  

This year we held our meetings in this small town.  What a perfect place it was!  A lot of history was added when numerous visitors came from Africa.  

Other highlights from the conference were speakers Dr. Kenneth Harris, president of the National Business League,  Dr. Charles DeBow, president of the National Black Chamber of Commerce, and  Shaquane Teasley,  CEO of Agate Solutions. They gave us an impressive number of ideas for community building and success. 

We had a speaker from USAID, Assistant Administrator Monde Muyangwa, who eloquently explained the work the United States does in Africa. She was informative on projects in which both Africans and African Americans may participate in the programs. 

During the pre-conference, Dr. Abdoulaye Mbengue, who is the WCM VP for Africa, executive director for the late Mayor John Smith Executive Leadership Institute and the WCM African office.  

Dr. Mbengue held a leadership training session for mayors in remembrance of the late Mayor John Smith. Hobson City, Alabama Mayor Alberta McCrory chairs this Committee and Dr. Mbengue chairs the Africa Committee. 

We had speakers who gave lectures on Artificial Intelligence, Agriculture, raising resources for running towns, climate change and water management systems. 

Commissioner Samuel Ings served as Chair of the Conference, as well as Chair of the Resolutions Committee. I served as Vice Chair of the Resolutions Committee.  

We passed resolutions of support and recognition on many subjects. The first one was for the restoration of Haiti. 

Travel, reading and participating in conferences like that of the World Conference of Mayors and Historically Black Towns and Settlements Alliance, you will learn a lot! 

Dr. E.Faye Williams is president of the Dick Gregory Society.