Durham restaurant hosts Warren campaign event for locals

Massachusetts Rep. Ayanna Pressley addresses a packed house at Zweli’s on Feb. 21. Zweli’s has hosted presidential campaign events for Mike Bloomberg and Elizabeth Warren, and plans to host more events like this to bring the community into the political conversation. (Staff photo by AJ O’Leary)

Most people come to Zweli’s for the only Zimbabwean food in town, but some come to talk politics.

On Friday, Feb. 21, Zweli’s, located in Durham, hosted an Elizabeth Warren presidential campaign event as part of its Dinner Table Talks speaker series. Leonardo Williams, who runs the restaurant with his wife, Zweli, said events like their Dinner Table Talks are important in the current political climate.

“Politics in general have become so tribal,” Williams said. “We’re trying to be the opposite of that, so no matter what or who you believe in, we can have a conversation around it.”

The event was from 10 a.m.-12 p.m. Zweli’s served beef and vegan samosas, piri piri chicken skewers and artichoke and spinach dip with chips, free of charge. Massachusetts Rep. Ayanna Pressley spoke on behalf of Warren and took questions from the audience. 

Pressley said Warren addresses black issues consistently and praised her intersectional approach to forming policies.

“She does not wait until she is in a room with black folks to talk about black entrepreneurship, historically black colleges and universities, the black maternal mortality crisis, the racial white wealth gap—she does this in every single space,” Pressley said.

Pressley spoke about Warren’s focus on affordable housing and funding for public schools and her electability. She also asked voters not to let polls control their votes on election day, and underlined her point with a pun.

“Do not ride the poller coaster,” Pressley said.

Natalie Murdock, Durham County Soil and Water District Supervisor and a candidate for N.C. Senate, also spoke at the event, emphasizing the importance of voting on election day.

“Do not allow yourself to be muted,” Murdock said. “Somebody will make a decision regarding our new president, regarding our governor, our attorney general, our lieutenant governor, up and down the ballot. If you don’t show up and you don’t vote, somebody will make that decision for you.”

People of all ages attended the event. Elijah King, 18, is a Riverside High School student and the youngest voting precinct officer in Durham County. King said it is important for all to play a role in presidential elections.

“Even if you’re not voting age, you can make an impact,” King said. “Any person can go canvas. Any person can go knock on doors if you have five fingers and a foot. Any person can make calls. Any person can post on social media.”

Zweli’s hosted a Mike Bloomberg presidential campaign event last month to discuss gun violence. Williams said they plan to hold similar events to the Warren and Bloomberg rallies in the future to discuss other relevant issues.

“We want to be able to bring folks together, to just bring about common decency,” Williams said.

Other prominent Durham figures at the event included local pastor Nia Wilson, Durham City Council Members Vernetta Alston—also running for a seat in the N.C. General Assembly—and Mark-Anthony Middleton, and the civic committee chairperson of the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People Angelique Stallings.

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