On Saturday, hundreds of people gathered at the Arch Street Meeting House in Philadelphia’s Old City neighborhood for WURD’s second annual “Empowerment Experience.”
Empowerment can take many different forms, said the radio station’s president and CEO Sara Lomax-Reese, the daughter of WURD founder Walter P. Lomax Jr., who created the station to serve Philadelphia’s black community.
With the holiday season already in full swing, economic empowerment comes to mind.
“At this time of year, there can be a lot of stress and a lot of fixation on buying and spending,” Lomax-Reese said. “We adopted a theme of ‘conscious consumerism’ — supporting local businesses during this holiday season to try to circulate dollars within the community.”
The crowd of nearly 600 mingled among colorful displays of dozens of local African-American businesses offering children’s books, personal care products, crafts, and handmade clothing, among other items.
The event wasn’t just a shopping spree, however. “It’s also about healing and health empowerment, and then there’s spiritual empowerment,” said Lomax-Reese. “Spiritual healing and understanding are the essence of who we are and how we live in the world.”
To that end, attendees also received information on health care, financial and other issues, and heard a sold-out keynote address by Iyanla Vanzant. The author, life coach, and former WURD host now stars in the Oprah Winfrey Network reality TV show “Iyanla: Fix My Life.” To mark the 25th anniversary edition of her best-selling book “Acts of Faith: Daily Meditations for People of Color,” Vanzant urged the crowd to take care of themselves spiritually, especially in times of stress and adversity.
Lomax-Reese believes events like this build community, which is at the core of the station’s mission, and plans to continue the annual event.
“We are an African-American talk radio station and there is an inherent community building within that format,” she said. “Every day we are creating engagement and a two-way interactive theatre, so to speak. And it really does feel like a family.”
For participants like Audrey Smalls, events like this create a sense of community that’s as important as the information being provided. “The station and the audience are like a family,” she said.