Kwame Leo Lillard was a champion for justice who has now joined the ancestors. After battling kidney disease for years he finally succumbed on Sunday, December 20, 2020 after testing COVID-19 positive. He had formed the African American Cultural Alliance, which organized the annual African Street Festival and introduced Kwanzaa to Nashville in 1983. Lillard represented District 2 on the Metro Council from 1991 to 1995. Here are tributes to Kwame from some of the many who knew him.
State Representative Harold M. Love, Jr., Pastor, Lee Chapel AME: “Brother Kwame Lillard was a profound voice for justice and equality. He always looked for ways to combat racism and support the Black Community. His Voice will be missed.”
Close friend Joseph Love: “I’m still in shock. I don’t want to believe that you are no longer with us. I thank God for bringing you in my life, and for all the wonderful time we spent together. I love you Kwame, rest easy my friend.”
Sharon W. Hurt, President/CEO JUMP and Metro Council At-Large Member: “Rest In Peace my neighbor, my friend, Kwame Leo Lillard. You taught me and others so much. Missing you!”
Ray Winbush, Director, Institute for Urban Research, Morgan State University and Former Director of the Race Relations Institute at Fisk University: “Another one of Our great organizers has joined the Ancestors. He did so much for my former city of Nashville. Asé..”
Molly Secours, Filmmaker/Director/Writer: “This man. Never backed down. Never minced words.
What a fierce force. We are honored to have walked the earth at the same time. Thank you Kwame Lillard. Get your rest.”
Tennessee State University: “The TSU Family is saddened by the passing of alumnus Kwame Leo Lillard, a 1961 mechanical engineering graduate. Lillard dedicated his life to fighting injustice and inequality in the City of Nashville and the State of Tennessee. He educated thousands on the contributions of African Americans, and brought it to the forefront as the founder of the African Street Festival. Our sincerest condolences go out to his family, and the community he loved and served. Please join us in honoring his memory as a solider for justice and someone who was passionate about his alma mater.”
Mayor John Cooper:· “Nashville has lost a civil rights giant and a long-time Metro councilman. I’ve lost a mentor and a friend. Kwame Lillard was a life-long activist starting with lunch counter sit-ins in 1960. He was a Freedom Rider across the Jim Crow South. He formed the African American Cultural Alliance in 1982 which has committed to promoting positive African Diaspora values and education.
A Pearl High and Tennessee State University graduate, Kwame never stopped challenging Nashville to live up to its highest ideals. He celebrated our community’s rich African American history and fought for the preservation of Fort Negley. I am so grateful for our time together over the years. Laura and I send our condolences to his family and to the many people whose lives he touched.”
Visitation with family begins at 12 Noon On Monday, December 28, with Services following at 1:00 p.m. at First Baptist Church, Capitol Hill, The Reverend Dr. Kelly Miller Smith Jr., pastor. Contact New Generation Funeral Home, 2930 Murfreesboro Pike, Antioch, Tennessee 37013 at (615) 365-7105 for information on how to stream the service and see their website for a complete obituary.