BLACK HISTORY MONTH IS THE REMEMBRANCE OF NOTABLE PEOPLE AND EVENTS IN AFRICAN AMERICAN HISTORY THAT HAS BEEN CELEBRATED ANNUALLY IN THE UNITED STATES IN FEBRUARY SINCE 1976. THE REMEMBRANCE HAS ITS ROOTS IN 1926 BY HISTORIAN CARTER G. WOODSON. HE CHOSE THE SECOND WEEK IN FEBRUARY BECAUSE IT MARKED THE BIRTHDAYS OF TWO AMERICANS WHO GREATLY INFLUENCED THE LIVES AND SOCIAL CONDITIONS OF AFRICAN AMERICANS: FORMER PRESIDENT ABRAHAM LINCOLN AND ABOLITIONIST AND FORMER SLAVE FREDERICK DOUGLASS.
The Washington Wizards are proud to honor the great and countless contributions of African Americans. In addition to events throughout the community, the Wizards will spotlight and honor various African Americans making a positive difference in their communities. The spotlights will take place during four Wizards home games in February. The Wizards will honor individuals that are making a difference in their communities using the pillars supported by the Wizards community relations department. The five pillars are Education, Pediatric Health and Fitness, Hunger and Homelessness, Military and Veteran, and Youth Basketball.
Black History Spotlight Honoree: Azel Prather Jr.
Saturday, February 1st vs. Nets
MSE Pillar: Education
Azel Prather Jr. has been teaching early childhood education for four years. His passion for catering to children in underserved communities led him to create the The Prather Foundation. The nonprofit organization was established with a vision to provide a nurturing and safe environment in which children can embrace their identity and reach their full potential. The primary goal is to develop strong children, families, and communities across the city through academic readiness, self-care, character development, and social enrichment activities. In 2019, Prather was recognized by his colleagues with the Teacher-to-Teacher award, an award which teachers cast votes on their peers who have showcased being exemplar in and out of the classroom.
He recently started a self-care initiative in which he was able to provide haircuts, braids, and manicures to over 50 students at his school. For the past three years, Prather has been able to provide a Christmas for over 1,000 children through his “Zelf On The Shelf” Holiday Toy Drive. His philanthropy work with The Prather Foundation has been recognized by Because Of Them We Can, TheShadeRoom, The Ellen Degeneres Show and more.
Prather believes it truly takes a village and credits community involvement with most of his success. He often says that children learn by example. By having positive people who look like them that are doing great things, he believes he can help mold the future of these children one kid at a time. Children may not remember everything you have taught them, but they remember who showed up. Prather has a simple motto that he follows: Show Up, and Do The Work.
Angel Gregorio & Tony Lewis Jr.
Sunday, February 9th vs. Grizzles
MSE Pillar: Education
Angel Gregorio, owner of The Spice Suite. Angel is a mommy, home cook, activist and educator with a knack for blurring the line between food and fashion. In 2015, as a high school assistant principal, she walked by a vacant store front with no plan or desire to be a small business owner and decided on the spot to turn it into a spice shop. She is now a real life spicegirl, traveling to over 15 countries for spices. Angel's spice shop has become a dream incubator and haven. Having hosted over 400 free pop up shops for black business owners, this space has become a DC staple for this DC native. Her love for fashionable flavors and natural talent in the kitchen landed her a spot in the Top 40 of MasterChef's Season 8. Since opening, has Angel regularly made appearances in local news and print media from The Washington Post and Essence to XoNecole and Martha Stewart Living.
Tony Lewis Jr.
Tony Lewis Jr. is a community leader, work force development specialist, re-entry expert, and champion for children with incarcerated parents. Mr. Lewis has fought relentlessly over the past 16 years to uplift and empower men, women, and children impacted by mass incarceration. His work and advocacy has been featured on CNN, BET, Elite Daily, and in the Washington Post. He is the winner of many awards including the Steve Harvey/Ford Motor Company "Best Community Leader" award and the Presidential Call to Service award.
Together on DC Natives Day
The DC Natives Day is a celebration of the contributions and culture of Native Washingtonians. Council member Kenyan R. McDuffie (D-Ward 5) introduced a resolution to affirm the day, and it was approved on April 2, 2019. Organizers Angel Gregorio (Spice Suite, Owner) and Tony Lewis, Jr. (Author, Community Leader) , decided to maintain that momentum by creating a celebration on May 20th. Lewis and Gregorio came up with the idea for a D.C. Natives Day after the success of a spontaneous event in 2017. The two organized a photo shoot for D.C. natives on May 20, 2018, as a way to counter an ad campaign that ran on the Instagram account of the Washingtonian. The publication featured photos of young people wearing T-shirts that read "I'm Not a Tourist. I Live Here," but not one showed a black person. The Washingtonian later took down the photos, and its president issued an apology, saying the campaign "did not represent the wonderfully diverse city in which we live." Gregorio and Lewis decided that was not enough. They wanted to create a counter image, so they put out a social media call for D.C. natives to attend their photo shoot. They expected maybe 40 people would come. More than 200 people, most of them black, showed up.
Monday, February 24th vs. Bucks
MSE Pillar: Education
Rajah Caruth is a senior at School Without Walls High School (SWW) in Washington, DC and an up and coming driver with the NASCAR Drive for Diversity (D4D) Youth Developmental Program. Rajah’s official NASCAR career began last summer with Rev Racing. Rajah Caruth will return to the Rev Racing roster for his second year in a row, having spent his first season running in the U.S. Legend Car Series in 2019, and this year earning a spot on the team racing in the Whelen All-American Series driving late model cars, and running his second year in the Bojangles Summer Shootout at Charlotte Motor Speedway driving Legend cars.
Caruth will become the first driver from an iRacing background to be selected for the program. He is a product of the eNASCAR Ignite Series – a grassroots youth racing platform that identifies drivers without access to traditional racetracks around the world. This past year, Caruth’s record compiled of two heat wins in the Bojangles Summer Shootout Series along with two top 10’s and a 13th place finish in points. In the eNASCAR Ignite Series, Caruth earned seven 2nd place finishes and made the championship round; in the NASCAR iRacing Series, he scored three wins, seven top 5’s, and 522 laps led in 2019 alone. Overall, Caruth has compiled 93 wins, 470 top 5’s, and 6777 laps led on iRacing.
Off the track, as a student-athlete, Rajah has played several sports including running Cross Country, Indoor and Outdoor Track, and has received awards including the DCIAA Track and Field All League Award in both 2019 and 2018. And, because of his passion for NASCAR and the Motorsports industry, Rajah was asked to model for the Louis Vuitton Damier Cobalt Capsule Race Collection Spring Campaign in Spring 2019, and was selected to be a panelist for NASCAR Esports at the National Association of Black Journalist’s (NABJ) conference the same year.
Rajah has been accepted to Winston-Salem State University in North Carolina, and plans to major in Motorsports Management. He seeks to continue to develop and grow as a driver and a community member, both on and off the track.