By James Locklear
PEMBROKE – Larry Chavis took extra pride in building the newest Pepsi display at the Pembroke Walmart.
The former Lumbee Tribal councilman known locally as the “Pepsi Man” spent two hours earlier this week turning an ordinary stack of 12-pack Pepsi products into a work of art honoring his tribe’s 2016 Dance of the Spring Moon powwow.
Chavis laid out the impressive display at the Pembroke Walmart’s grocery store entrance, spelling out the words “May 2016 POWWOW” using 12-pack drink boxes. The promotional display marks the beginning of a new partnership with the Lumbee Tribe as the retail giant also started selling powwow t-shirts at its Pembroke location.
This is the first time the Lumbee Tribe has had a merchandising agreement with a major franchise. The profits from the t-shirt sales will be used to pay for the powwow. The t-shirts will also be on sale at the powwow.
“I’m so glad Walmart has a place for this display,” Chavis said. “I think this is wonderful. This is something that shows respect for our people.”
The Lumbee Tribe’s Department of Energy Manager Patrick Strickland orchestrated the deal with Walmart to promote the 2016 powwow through the Pepsi display and by selling powwow t-shirts.
Chavis built the display using an assortment of perfectly placed black, red, gold and white boxes protruding from the stack of drink cases outlined the Lumbee tribal logo.
He said it took him about two hours to make the design, creatively built in three-dimensional style with protruding drink boxes forming the letters to announce the powwow and outlining the tribal logo.
Chavis said he is looking forward to this year’s powwow and plans to go every night. The tribe’s new partnership with Walmart and the fact that the powwow is returning to the Lumbee Tribe’s Indian Cultural Center is plenty to be excited over, he said.
“I love it,” Chavis said. “I just think it’s wonderful to have it back here. The staff and volunteers have done a wonderful job preparing it. I think the chairman is to be commended for his work in getting it ready. It will be a lot of fun and I can’t wait.”
Tribal Chairman Harvey Godwin praised Ponce Chavis for helping get the project approved through the corporate channels. Chavis has been the Pembroke Walmart Manager about five years.
He praised Godwin for pushing the project forward. Chavis said previous attempts with the tribe were unsuccessful.
“I have been trying to get something like this done since I’ve been here, but it just hasn’t happened,” Chavis said. “It’s been great working with Harvey Godwin. He has truly worked diligently to push this project forward in a short amount of time. I think it will be a great partnership with similar future events as well.”
Godwin said the deal with Walmart is another example of the benefits of building partnerships with local companies and agencies. Having a Lumbee store manager is also a plus, he added.
“We’re fortunate to have one of our own managing the Walmart here in Pembroke,” Godwin said. “He is someone who understands our culture, heritage and our identity. He really understands what the powwow means and its importance. This is what a great partnership can do.”
Members of the tribe’s boys and girls clubs sported Lumbee powwow t-shirts in a promotional photo shoot to advertise the shirts. The children looked on in amazement as the tribal chairman greeted them before taking the picture in front of the Pepsi powwow display.
Godwin took time to shake each of their hands as the astonished youngsters looked on in amazement at the opportunity to meet their tribal leader.
“Hello there. Do you know who I am,” Godwin said to Zayin Locklear, as the timid little boy from the Pembroke Boys and Girls Club shied away.
“I know who you are. You’re our tribal chief,” Kyra Young said to Godwin as he turned and smiled at the Hawkeye School student. “It’s great to meet you.”
Godwin said it is important to make sure the youth are involved with such events. He said including the young Lumbee children in these programs instills a sense of pride in them about their culture, heritage and history.
Ponce Chavis passed out cookies and other snacks to the children as they prepared to leave the store. He beamed with pride as he talked with Godwin, praising Pepsi officials for their work as well.
“Pepsi is always great about doing displays for us,” Chavis said. “We did one for Lumbee Homecoming before, but this is the first we’ve done for the Lumbee powwow. I’m glad we were finally able to do one because I think it’s very important to showcase our heritage. It’s been 10 years since the powwow’s been here. It’s important for the customer to see it displayed.”
Chavis said he showed a picture of the powwow t-shirts to a customer as he was walking out of the stock room. He said she immediately asked for two shirts, which he promptly retrieved.
“The customers were taking them off the carts as we were trying to stock them,” Chavis said smiling. “We could hardly keep up with people buying them. I’m proud it went well because Walmart is a big supporter of diversity. It’s great to support something this important to our market here in Pembroke.”
Godwin said he has plans to hopefully sell other merchandise at Walmart, ranging from clothing to baby supplies. The tribal chairman is hoping the tribal members will take pride in seeing the Lumbee logo on everyday items such as drinking cups, coolers and possibly towels as well.
He said he is excited about working with the Lumbee store manager as well as Walmart executives.
“This is what a great partnership can do,” Godwin said. “Not only was Walmart our number one sponsor for the powwow, they also got these t-shirts produced at a discounted rate for us. This is what a real community partner looks like. This is for the benefit of the people.”
For more information, visit the Lumbee Tribe’s website at lumbeetribe.com or call (910) 521-7861.
James Locklear may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (910) 536-3918.