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By Rev. JoAnn Watson
SPECIAL TO THE SUN
Clarence “Pee Wee” Harris was, without question, a Giant in the Detroit community! He joined the Ancestors on Easter weekend, at the age of 91, at the VA Hospital in Ann Arbor, succumbing to COVID 19.
Clarence Harris was an Organizer’s Organizer! He devoted his life to the cultural and academic development of young people in Detroit, and he leaves behind organizations he founded, along with hundreds of people he mentored.
Clarence was deeply committed to his Alma Mater, Northwestern High School. He was drafted to serve in the Military while attending Northwestern. After completing his tour of duty, he returned to high school to complete his schooling, earning a diploma and also earning the nickname “Pee Wee”, as he became a star player on the school’s basketball team-despite his diminutive stature.
After Clarence graduated from high school, he secured employment, got married, started a family, and purchased a home within walking distance of his beloved high school. Clarence began volunteering at the high school during his free time, and soon began to organize young people throughout the City to form “The Committee for Student Rights.”
Students who were mentored by Clarence Harris in the Committee for Student Rights during the ‘60’s were introduced to Pan African/Black Nationalist Speakers and literature & they began to demand that Black History classes be taught in the Detroit Public Schools; adopting “Afro” hair styles and wearing African garb.
“He was loyal, dedicated and a tough man. He was short in stature, but he was a giant among mankind,” Ronald E. Massey said. “He coached women’s softball at a time when it wasn’t popular for women to engage in men’s sports. He touched so many lives and made so many of our lives better. He was truly a mentor.”
Clarence Harris founded a 3-day annual cultural festival during the second weekend of August, called “Soul Days” on the campus of Northwestern High School in the late 60’s. Soul Days attracted as many as 100,000 attendees as Clarence Harris recruited Motown Acts like “Martha and the Vandella’s”, The Four Tops”, offered workshops on African Culture and vendors who promoted Arts, Crafts and clothing by African Entrepreneurs.
“In 1967, he started Soul Day – the first festival to celebrate African American culture and entertainment,” Massey said. “Education classes that featured Dr. Yosef Ben Jochannan and John Henrik* Clark were held at Northwestern High School and was attended by thousands of people. It was funded by Harris out of his own personal funds. He didn’t have any grants or donations.”
When Coleman A. Young was elected as Detroit’s first Black Mayor he asked Clarence if he would agree to transition the 3 day festival to Downtown Detroit, to become one of the hallmarks of his administration. Clarence Harris agreed, and Soul Days became the African World Festival. Initially the African World Festival was staged on Michigan Avenue, then moved to Hart Plaza for several decades and ultimately moving to the campus of The Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History.
Clarence Harris was a founding member of the Detroit Council of Elders, Northwestern High Alumni, was a Confidante of revered historians like Dr. Yosef Ben Jochannan and was a mentor to hundreds, including: Ronald Massey, William Massey, Rev. Wendell Anthony, Brother Piankhi, Kilindi Ayi, JoAnn Watson, James Ford, Keith Williams and others.
As many mourn the loss of Clarence “Pee Wee” Harris, cherished memories and stories of his contributions will not be forgotten.
“Pee Wee told me one day when I came to pick him up at 91 years old that he would go anywhere with me,” James Ford, founder of the Obama Day Weekend recalled. “Coming from a man of his stature, it was most honorable to me.”
May God Bless the life and legacy of our Gentle Giant, Elder Clarence “Pee Wee” Harris!
Motivational speaker inspires people to reach their
By Valerie D. Lockhart
SUN EXECUTIVE EDITOR
Scary memories of drug dealers banging on the door seeking to collect a debt owed by her father still hunt Tamieka Lee 42 years later.
With help from a loving grandparent and God, she was able to overcome childhood adversities and is now helping others to heal from traumatic injuries as well.
“My grandmother took custody of me when I was 5 and my brother was 6. My mom and dad had a lifestyle of drug use,” Lee, 47, explains. “We were surrounded by marijuana use. It affected me and my brother. We saw them at their worse. My grandmother gave us a good home environment, good education and manners. All of those bad experiences made me a better person today.”
The National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates that 25 percent of American children grow up in households where substance abuse is present. In homes where one or more adults abuse alcohol or drugs, children are approximately twice as likely to develop addictive disorders themselves, according to Current Drug Abuse Reviews.
Lee confessed to smoking marijuana and drinking alcohol in college, but is now journeying on a different path.
Today, she is a motivational speaker and author, who inspire others to overcome obstacles to achieve their dreams.
Living by the five “E’s” has helped to clear her pathway of barriers.
“My mission is to encourage, educate, empower, edify and to be an example to all who come across my path,” Lee said. “My messages are spoken from the heart on topics covering educational leadership, my tests, trials, triumphs and spiritual leadership. I have a calling to give back the knowledge I have received and to help transform people to live their "Destiny Unlimited."
This month, Lee will spread her message with the release of “The World is Yours,” a self-help motivational paperback book.
“The purpose of my book is to provide a guide to help people to successfully reach their goals. It has a biblical foundation. It offers quotes from prominent leaders and, hip hop artists,” Lee said. “It’s education centered, because I love to teach. Its message is to inspire readers to be persistent in reaching their goals, be discipline, and get knowledge.”
Plans for a virtual book tour are being considered, due to the pandemic. She also admits that she is not exempt from needing encouragement during this difficult time.
“I’m excited about what’s to come and becoming a blessing to people,” she said. Don’t be overly cautious, because you’ll be walking in fear. Pray. Don’t go out, unless it’s necessary. Follow guidelines. There is hope for all of us. My book is coming out, so I had to reach out to someone to encourage me. It’s important for us to stay focused and stay positive.”
For those seeking to conquer frightening childhood memories and hardships, she offers keys for reaching your destiny.
“No matter how your upbringing is or if your home environment is not conducive for growth, you have to find people to plant good seeds. Change the way you think, and you can have better things for yourself. Find good mentors. Surround yourself with people that will encourage and impart positive words.”
By doing so, you’ll reach your “destiny unlimited”.
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Clarence "Pee Wee" Harris: A giant joins ancestors