An annual celebration for Black Christians has brought the city of Washington, D.C., into the holiday spirit.
It was the first time in more than a decade that Black religious figures participated in such a holiday, said Dwayne Lewis, a black pastor in a church that serves as a community center.
Lewis, who is the head of the Washington, African American Leadership Conference, called the event a “spiritual awakening” for black families in the city.
He said it also provides a chance to reflect on the importance of Christmas and to see the beauty in life.
“Black people, whether they are Christians or Muslims, Jewish, Buddhist, Sikh, Native American, you name it, we are all a part of the same community,” Lewis said.
“We celebrate Christmas, and we are trying to get to a place where we celebrate our holidays and embrace the diversity in our community and celebrate it.”
Lewis said the festival was organized by a group called the Washington Black Christian Fellowship (WBCF), which is a nonprofit organization that supports religious freedom and is also involved in the annual religious coloring pages and religious coloring page art festival.
The group said its goal is to create a more vibrant, diverse community.WBCM is also the nation’s largest black church, with about 3,000 members, according to its website.
It also has a branch in the District of Columbia, where it is part of a larger network of churches in the country.
According to WBCF, Black religious freedom is a legal right enjoyed by all Americans, regardless of race or religion.
The law, the group says, is based on religious freedom because the practice of religion is the primary vehicle of worship.
According the WBCM website, religious freedom refers to “the right of people to engage in and express their religious beliefs without government interference.”
“It is important for Black people to have a voice in how their communities celebrate Christmas,” Lewis added.
“This is a holiday that we celebrate for all of us.”
The event was part of an initiative called Black Christmas, an annual celebration of Black Christmas and other Black religious traditions.
Black Christmas draws about 1,000 people to the streets of the District each year to sing and hold religious services and decorations for the holidays.
In 2016, Lewis said, WBCI received the largest number of requests for religious freedom in its history, with the event drawing about 1.3 million people.
Lewis said WBCFI wants to create the best holiday experience possible for its members.
“We want to create something that is more inclusive, more welcoming, more meaningful and more joyful,” Lewis told The Washington Post.
“It’s a celebration of the Black Christmas,” he said.