NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — When Kwanzaa starts on Saturday, those in Nashville celebrating will be without the man who introduced the holiday to the community in 1983.
Kwame Leo Lillard passed away Sunday.. after decades of advocating for the city's African American community.
Lillard's friends said he lived a life of purpose - from the civil rights movement to Metro Council to the black lives matter marches this summer.
"If it didn't have community attached to it, he wasn't a part of it. If it wasn't about fighting injustices, he wasn't about it. He was a revolutionary 24/7," said Maria Hall with Kwanzaa Nashville.
NewsChannel5 spoke to Lillard last month after the renaming of a Nashville street for the late Rep. John Lewis.
"We basically did what john said, if not us, who? If not now, then when?" he said.
But Lillard too, will be remembered for leading the local community. Even in his final days when he wasn't feeling well, Kwanzaa Nashville said he filmed an inspiring interview for this year's virtual celebration.
"He understood the power of living. We all are dealt certain cards in life but he never allowed his health to keep him from continuing to fight to pour into people's lives," said Hall.
That video will be posted on Saturday night. Kwame Leo Lillard was 81 years old.