Home / News / Local / Spirit and You Foundation holds inaugural Community Roots Gala in Newark, New Jersey; Mayor Baraka, Akil Khalfani, Iyanla Vanzant, others speak       
(Left) Organizer of the event and co-founder, Spirit and You Foundation, Rev. Elemi Gayle and her husband and co-founder Sean Gayle (Right). Center is Keynote Speaker, Iyanla Vanzant and painter Suliman Onque.

Spirit and You Foundation holds inaugural Community Roots Gala in Newark, New Jersey; Mayor Baraka, Akil Khalfani, Iyanla Vanzant, others speak       

Mayor Ras Baraka of Newark City, New Jersey, USA
(Left) Organizer of the event and co-founder, Spirit and You Foundation, Rev. Elemi Gayle and her husband and co-founder Sean Gayle (Right). Center is Keynote Speaker, Iyanla Vanzant and painter Suliman Onque.
(Left to right) Iyanla Vanzant, Dr. Akil Khalfani and his wife Sia Khalfani
Awardees (center) is Zul Latifatv and Aminata Dukuray.
Iyanla Vanzant and New York State Senator Kevin Parker
Packed audience at the event.

On Saturday, May 20, 2023, at Rutgers’ Ruth Bader Ginsburg Hall in Newark, New Jersey the Spirit and You Foundation held its inaugural Community Roots Gala, where it honored several community members, including Amina Bey, Aminata Dukray, Tobias Fox, Katy Linton Guarducci, Jennifer Made, Anthony Smith, Milly Velez, Zul Latifatv, and Yendor. All were given beautiful glass awards.

Co-Founders Elemi and Sean Gayle are opening a Cultural Center in Newark that in part sparked the day’s event. Elemi already owns and operates Yeyeo Botanical in the city for the last 14 years. The new cultural center will be a beacon for Newark.

The gala’s theme was Character, Community, and Culture. This theme was addressed by Dr. Akil Khalfani during a reception for the honorees, and by the Keynote Speaker, Reverend Dr. Iyanla Vanzant. The Mayor of Newark, Ras Baraka, also addressed the honorees during the reception.

Dr. Khalfani remarked that “one aspect of Maat that is important is righteousness, suggesting we must demonstrate good character in public and private spaces.”

Before the awards, Rev. Elemi Gayle gave a tearful reminder that not all people share the benefits of shelter and adequate food. She remarked that a colleague, who had lived in her car, gave her the impetus to create the Spirit and You Foundation.

Welcoming the Keynote Speaker to the stage was Sean Gayle and New York State Senator Kevin Parker.

Ms. Iyanla Vanzant, who spoke to an exuberant audience told stories about her life and reflected on the theme of ‘Character, Community, and Culture.’ She touched the hearts of the audience, but also had them laughing.

Iyanla said “let’s build our characters by healing our souls in a way that we can sharing with one another eye to eye, heart to heart, soul to soul and that’s how we’ll help one another in the community.” She remarked that culture is the key to uplifting and healing and keeping the community together.

The well attended event was enjoyed by all in attendance. There was also a silent auction of original artworks, a book collection from Source of Knowledge Bookstore, a painted shekere, a wholistic health assessment and more.

By Akil Khalfani

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