Kwanzaa Starts with a Bang
State Sen. Earline Parmon was honored and former State Rep. Larry Womble thanked by his many supporters during a celebration at the Winston-Salem Urban League on Dec. 26 to celebrate the first day of Kwanzaa.
A local celebration was held each evening during Kwanzaa, Dec. 26 – Jan. 1, at various locations. Honors were presented to local notables during each event.
Parmon, a longtime community activist, was sworn in this week as the first African American woman to serve as a senator from Forsyth County. She said she knew that she was “standing on the shoulders of my elders” and thanked all her supporters. She promised to continue to stand up for her constituents.
“I will show up; I will speak up and, if necessary, I will act up,” she said.
Womble was honored during last year’s Kwanzaa festivities but was unable to attend because he was recovering from injuries he sustained in a catastrophic car accident. Though still recovering, he made an appearance this year to a standing ovation. He began his remarks in his trademark fashion: by citing the first stanza of “Invictus” and declaring that the 71st District, which he represented, as the state’s best district.
He thanked the community for its outpouring of support during his recovery and talked about how he and Parmon spent their careers fighting for the community.
“I didn’t go down there (to Raleigh) to represent the rich folks … I went down there to represent the people of Winston-Salem, and if you’re not doing something for the people that sent you down there, you don’t need to be down there,” said Womble.
The first day of Kwanzaa celebrates the principle of Umoja or Unity. Luci Vaughn told attendees that Umoja acts as the foundation for Kwanzaa’s other principles: kujichagulia (self-determination), ujima (collective work and responsibility), ujamaa (cooperative economics), nia (purpose), kuumba (creativity) and imani (faith).
“We are one related united family,” explained Vaughn. “Whatever happens to one will eventually happen to all of us.”
As is the local tradition, children lit the first candle on the kinara, an African libation was performed to honor the ancestors and the Otesha Creative Arts Ensemble got the crowd moving with drumming and dancing. The program also included a tribute to President Barack Obama and special remarks by Candice Benbow, a graduate student studying at Duke Divinity School.
New York native Lewis Black was among the first-night attendees. Black, who has been observing Kwanzaa since it was created in the 1960s by Dr. Maulana Karenga, said he is drawn to the African American cultural celebration by its principles.
“It’s seven days of positive thinking,” he said.
Nicole Davenport is also a Kwanzaa veteran, but had not attended a celebration in several years. She was reminded last week, why she first fell in love with Kwanzaa.
“Ever since the first time, I’ve enjoyed it,” she said. “It’s inspirational.”