Kwanzaa events start Thursday evening
Following the hustle and bustle of Christmas, residents from across the community will come together this week, during the Winston-Salem City-Wide Kwanzaa Celebration.
An annual Twin City tradition, the seven-daylong celebration will be held Dec. 26- Jan. 1 at venues across the city.
The Winston-Salem Urban League, 201 West 5th St., will again host the opening day celebration of “Umoja,” or “unity” at 6 p.m. This year’s theme is “Affirmation: Living in harmony with Those Inside and Outside my Circle.” District Court Judge Denise Hartsfield will serve as keynote speaker, and Dr. Amber Baker and Chronicle Publisher Ernie Pitt will be honored.
Baker, who has nearly two decades’ experience in education, will be recognized for her efforts to connect community resources to the students at Kimberley Park Elementary School, where she has served as principal for the past six years.
“You don’t ever expect for anybody to recognize the work that you do when you love it as much as I love it,” declared Baker, who also serves on the Board of Directors for Habitat for Humanity of Forsyth County. “The fact that they chose to honor the work that I do with the children as well as the work that I do in the community was very humbling.”
Close to 1,000 people are expected to take part in local Kwanzaa events this year, according to Cheryl Harry, founder of Triad Cultural Arts, which has organized the celebration since it was adopted as a citywide event in 2007. Because it is a cultural observance – not a religious one – Kwanzaa has the ability to unify members of the community in a way that few holidays can, Harry said.
“It’s a celebration of community, a celebration of family and a celebration of culture as we begin to prepare to move into a new year,” she remarked. “I think it’s good for us to take time to reflect and take stock of where we are and make plans to have our community be better in the coming year.”
The Delta Arts Center, 2611 New Walkertown Rd., will serve as a host site for the Dec. 27 celebration of “Kujichagulia” (Self Determination). The 6 p.m. event will include excerpts from “The Black Candle,” a film about Kwanzaa narrated by Winston-Salem’s own Maya Angelou, and comments from Mercedes Miller, an empowerment specialist and author who will serve as the evening’s keynote speaker. Artist Leo Rucker is the Kujichagulia honoree.
“We believe in Kwanzaa. We think that this is an important cultural activity for our community,” Board of Directors Chair Cynthia Jeffries said of Delta’s motivation to get involved this year. “…We want to continue to see high quality programming and educational offerings in our community, and that’s what this City Wide Kwanzaa program represents.”
Nathan Ross Freeman will speak at the 4 p.m. “Ujima” (Collective Works and Responsibility) event at Emmanuel Baptist Church, 1075 Shalimar Drive, on Dec. 28.
“The theme of the evening is making sure that we leave no son or daughter behind,” said Freeman, the artistic director of Authoring Action, a local nonprofit that engages youth through writing. “As adults, our responsibility is to provide a safe house for our children’s dreams to come true.”
Freeman said he is honored to be a part of the celebration, which he says is needed now more urgently than ever.
[pullquote]“It’s trying to make sure that we’re not swindled by the commerciality of the holidays, that we’re not stripped of the memory of why we’re here and what we need to do to be free, because we’re not[/pullquote],” “We have more young men dying quicker. We have less families that are staying together, the prisons are booming – it’s a veritable slaughter going on.”
The Carl Russell Sr. Community Center, 3521 Carver Rd., will host the “Ujamaa” (Cooperative Economics) event at 3 p.m. on Dec. 29. Center Supervisor Ben Piggott has been attending Kwanzaa events since they began in Winston-Salem in 1977 and has hosted “Ujamaa” night since 1992. The Josh Howard Foundation’s Steve Nivens Jr. and Richard Williams, publisher of Black Business Ink magazine, will be honored. The event will showcase a skit by the Victory in Life youth group, and plenty of advice on how businessowners and community members can manage their money more wisely, Piggott said.
“We don’t want people to just come and celebrate and leave and don’t have nothing,” he stated. “We want you to have something that you’ll be able to use.”
Grace Presbyterian, 3901 Carver School Rd., is also a longtime Kwanzaa participant. The church began hosting its own Kwanzaa celebration decades ago and has since joined the citywide event, explained Emma Shouse, a longtime Grace member who organizes the church’s observance of “Nia” (Purpose). Shouse, a retiree, said the Dec. 30 6 p.m. event – which will feature one of the church’s native sons, civil rights attorney Ryan Wilson of the U.S. Justice Department, as keynote speaker this year – is a unique opportunity for the church to reach members of the broader community.
“We have such an outreach when we do this,” she said of the event, which will honor Renee Andrews, one of the local celebration’s founding members. “Lots of people from different backgrounds come. We always have a covered dish where everybody can get together and talk.”
A celebration of “Kuumba” (Creativity) at the Arts Council Theatre, 610 Coliseum Drive, on Dec. 31 at 1 p.m., and “Imani” (Faith) at Alpha and Omega Church of Faith, 1445 N Gray Ave., at 4 p.m. on Jan. 1 will round out the citywide observance. Dr. Carlton Eversley will keynote the New Year’s Eve event, where Patrice Toney and his wife, Luellen Curry, will be honored. Motivational speaker and author Nigel Alston will speak at the culminating ceremony at Alpha and Omega, where City Council member Denise “DD” Adams will be honored.
For more information or a full slate of events, visit http://triadculturalarts.org/kwanzaa.