South Africa Princess Zama Zulu, a descendant of King Shaka Zulu, was the marquee guest during a virtual Black History Month program sponsored by 89 Ways to Give and local Black business owners.
Zulu spent the program talking about her family, her childhood and cultural practices — and she said she’d love to make a visit to Loudoun. The virtual program was a celebration looking back at the accomplishments of the Black community nationwide, but specifically in Loudoun through business, education, legislation and the arts.
The princess said she was touched by the program.
“I’m lost for words. I’m overwhelmed by this opportunity to be with you, and we’ll definitely see each other again,” Zulu said.
The princess’ great, great grandfather, Shaka Zulu, was a Zulu chief and the founder of the Zulu empire in southern Africa.
Americans learned of his story through Joshua Sinclair’s 1985 novel “Shaka Zulu” and a 1986 South African TV series directed by William C. Faure.
Michelle Thomas, president of the NAACP Loudoun Branch and founder and executive director of Loudoun Freedom Center, said there were a lot of takeaways from that series.
“Do you remember that, do you remember how we all felt?” Thomas said. “Who would think that, years later, that we would be here listening to his great, great granddaughter?”
Connecting the story of Black people being taken from Africa and enslaved, Thomas said her purpose is to protect, promote and preserve the history of African Americans. Her work in historical research led her to launch what would become the African American Burial Ground for the Enslaved at Belmont.
In 2017, the Loudoun Freedom Center purchased the space to help preserve Loudoun’s African American heritage and educate people about its past.
Princess Zulu said she hopes to bring a group to visit and celebrate the lives of those who are buried at the cemetery through song and dance.
Zulu and Thomas joined others guests at the event, including Tony Perkins, a longtime news and radio personality in D.C., and former Washington football player Santana Moss, the founder of 89 Ways to Give.
Moss said Black people played an essential role in America’s history and that their achievements should be celebrated with more than a month. He said he believes that “our history is much deeper than just a month worth of acknowledgement.”
Loudoun County Sheriff Mike Chapman (R), who emphasized the importance of partnerships and collaboration, and State Sen. Jennifer Boysko (D-33rd) also spoke during the program.
Boysko, who co-chairs of an advisory committee that reviews school curriculum and teacher licensure requirements, said she will ensure the curriculum reflects the slavery, discrimination and history of disenfranchisement.
“We need to tell the whole story about all the people that have made Virginia the place it is today, and we need to do that consistently through the year,” Boysko said.
Jessica Howard, Emiya Diaz and Tracy Hamlin performed during the hour-long program. Skylar Johnson, teenage fashion designer, and Melaki Felder provided inspirational readings from Maya Angelou and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., respectively.
Carmen Felder, president of 89 Ways to Give, and Nicole Nixon, CEO of Listing Central LLC, co-hosted the event.
Organizers said the princess has not confirmed a date when she hopes to visit Loudoun.
However, they said they “are at a loss of words in excitement that she wants to take her first trip to the United States and it be Loudoun County.”