By Dylan Deprey
To lose a parent at a young age is something that no child should ever endure, especially when it’s at the hands of violence in the community. The holiday seasons can be a tough time for anybody who has experienced losing a loved one, and children are no exception.
As the Original Black Panthers of Milwaukee tend to the community by keeping local businesses and public accountable for unacceptable business and racist practices, they also get into the spirit of Kwanzaa, especially when the children are involved.
“What we wanted to do was show some honor, love and respect to the children that lost parents to violence in Milwaukee,” said King Rick, Black Panther general. “Kwanzaa in Swahili means the ‘first fruits of harvest,’ and the Panthers wanted to make sure to take the time to give back.”
The Original Black Panthers of Milwaukee hosted it’s 2nd Annual Shopping with a Panther event on Dec. 28, which happened to be Ujima, the third day of Kwanzaa.
Ujima is one of the seven principles celebrated over Kwanzaa’s seven-days. Ujima is a day meant to promote collective work and responsibility.
“We as a people have to unite together for our community because we have a responsibility to take care of the community when we’re right, and when we’re wrong,” Rick said.
Before the caravan set off to Walmart, the families and Panthers met for a hot meal and conversation at the WSHH Community Center/24hr Emergency Shelter for Women and Children at 3805 W. Center St. in Milwaukee.
“We’re doing this for the kids, it’s all about the kids,” said Shalonda Ezell, WSHH founder. “It’s about to be a good time for the adults too.”
While children were the center of attention, the guardians and parents have also experienced the loss of a loved one. They have also taken the blunt reality of new responsibilities. To show their appreciation, the Panthers gave each guardian a gift certificate to the African inspired store, Pursenality.
After the quick first stop at Silver Mill Mall for the adults to enjoy some fun, the convoy made its way to Walmart in Brown Deer. Once the kids got their Panthers and shopping carts, the only rules that applied were that they spent every last cent on whatever they wanted.
The Panthers paired with a child and their guardian. The groups took a trip down the far less enthusiastic clothing and hygiene aisles, as well as the more inspired and smile inducing toy and sports sections.
No aisle was left unscathed and no toy was left untouched: from the Barbies, the Legos, the super hero action figures, the Disney character dolls, the Nerf guns and everything in between.
As carts slowly filled, laughter and conversation echoed through the toy section. From testing out bikes and hula hoop competitions, to choosing between the big remote control car or the even bigger remote control car, the adults were just as entertained as the kids.
Although not one present, toy or gadget can rewind back time to when there was another loving parent to spend the holidays with, King Rick and the Original Black Panthers hope to extend a hand and show some love.
“We want them to know that there is somebody out there that loves you, respects you and honors you. We are going to work with you and we’re going to help you grow into a proud productive person for the community and not just the local community but the complete community,” Rick said.