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By Uhila Makoni                                     Follow East Palo Alto Today on
East Palo Alto Today                               Facebook    Twitter         Blog    
Wednesday, January 23, 2013               
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Photo of David Lewis and Vicki Smothers    Photo of Vicki Smothers giving award to Bob Hoover
        Courtesy of Free At Last website            Courtesy of Uhila Makoni
Photo of David Lewis and Vicki Smothers   Vicki Smothers and Bob Hoover

David Lewis was an East Palo Alto activist who was shot and killed in a San Mateo city shopping mall in June 2010. But even in death he left an uplifting legacy for the East Palo Alto community.

Lewis was one of the main founders of Free At Last, an East Palo Alto nonprofit, which provides community services to reduce and eliminate substance abuse, addiction and HIV infection. The agency’s services are also designed to “provide alternatives to incarceration and foster economic self-sufficiency.”

On Friday, January 18, Free At Last, held it’s 19th anniversary and celebrated Lewis’ legacy. The all day celebration was held in the agency’s office at 1796 Bay Road in East Palo Alto.

During the day, visitors were treated to hors d’oeures and invited to take a tour of the organization’s facility.

The highlight of the day took place in the evening during the David Lewis award ceremony, which focused on a celebration of Lewis’ life and his organizational efforts at Free At Last. 

The event was attended by current and past benefactors of the agency’s services, agency staff and board members and other community members and supporters.

One East Palo Alto’s Executive Director Faye McNair-Knox was the main speaker of the evening. During her speech, she shared her admiration for the self-determination shown by Free At Last members in their efforts to support a re-entry program in East Palo Alto. 

She described Lewis as someone who had the ability to transform people into listeners and as someone who changed the negative perception of East Palo Alto, so that others would understand the community. 

A David E. Lewis Community award was presented in honor of Lewis to a community member who has impacted East Palo Alto in a positive way.

Free At Last's Board President, Vicki Smothers, presented the award to Bob Hoover, a longtime East Palo Alto activist, who is currently one of the agency's board members.  Hoover credited Lewis for “bringing him along with him” as part of Lewis' work in East Palo Alto. 

In his acceptance speech, Hoover shared the words that were given to him by Stokely Carmichael, a prominent figure during the integration movement which took place in the 1960’s and 1970’s in the U.S..

Hoover said, “I don’t understand why you would be anxious to turn the minds of your children over to the people who have oppressed you for over four hundred years.” 

Hoover added, “You must educate your own and you need to control the institutions within your community.”


Uhila Makoni, the author of this article can be contacted at epatoday@epatoday.org. Henrietta J. Burroughs also contributed to this article.