Atlanta Icon Elisabeth Omilami Shares Life Lessons
This week Elisabeth Omalami, an actress and human rights activist who runs the largest Black-owned food bank in the South East, joins us for a conversation about her life. A child of the movement, Omalami was raised to believe “that people should be accountable for each other and their environment and should fight for justice for all people.” As a youngster, she and her parents, Juanita and Dr. Hosea Williams, participated in marches throughout the south. She has been recognized as one of the youngest people to be arrested in the fight for Civil Rights.
A graduate of Hampton University with a degree in Theatre, she returned to Atlanta in the 1970s. She started The People’s Survival Theater, providing summer arts camp and arts training for underserved communities. This was at the same time that her father was starting Hosea Feeds The Hungry. Under the leadership of Omalami and her husband, actor Afemo Omalami the program has grown to serve the community year-round. Expanded services include job training, housing, and more. Additionally, services are provided throughout and beyond the metro-Atlanta area.
I asked Elisabeth about growing up in Atlanta, and she spoke about returning to Atlanta after she graduated from Hampton Institute. She talks about her father, Dr. Hosea Williams, visiting China and learning how the country used the arts and Theatre to educate its citizens. That is how the idea of The People’s Survival Theater came into being. The program started at David T. Howard high school.
Elisabeth took over the “family” business Hosea Feeds the Hungry after her father passed in 2000. Her explanation for some of her success was that the staff and volunteers stayed on as she began leading the organization. Omilami speaks about the needs in the community continuing to grow year after year, often by more than 20%. I asked her how the organization grew beyond the “holiday” dinners to housing, job training, and a full-fledged service agency. She speaks about meeting the needs of the community.
Omilami explains that she graduated from the Hosea Williams “school of direct action.” Omilami explains the unique role her father played in the civil rights movement. Dr. King used him to threaten municipalities to take their demands seriously. She also shares that she was traumatized as a child participant in the marches. She speaks to being arrested at age nine and eating a bologna sandwich in jail. Omilami shares that she saw things a child shouldn’t have seen. She talks about having the courage to march also meant having the courage to be beaten.
Hosea Helps provides a weekly food distribution every Wednesday at their offices, 2545 Forest Hills Drive, Atlanta, GA 30315, in Southwest Atlanta. Fresh produce and meats are distributed via drive-up or walk-up. They could always use a few more volunteers for this event.
They will host their annual Easter Dinner, which includes beauty and barber services, on Sunday, April 9th, from 11AM - 4AM. Participants will also receive food boxes to feed a family for two weeks.
For more information or to volunteer, visit www.4hosea.org