(pictured above: Attendees participate in the closing Harambee chant at Friday’s Kwanzaa event.)
Kujichagulia – or self determination – was the Kwanzaa principle celebrated Friday at Delta Arts Center.
A seven-day African American community and culture celebration, Kwanzaa celebrates a different principle each day from Dec. 26 – Jan. 1. Seven venues throughout the city hosted Kwanzaa events last week. It was the first time the Delta Arts Center, a gallery on New Walkertown Road founded by members of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, hosted one of the citywide Kwanzaa events.
“It feels like the right use of the space,” Delta Board Chair Cynthia Jeffries said. “It feels like it’s part of our mission.”
The more than 80 attendees were surrounded by large, colorful quilts made by Lakota Indians, which adorned the walls for Delta’s latest exhibit. Like at all Kwanzaa events, the elders (those 65 and older) had to grant permission before the celebration could proceed at Delta Arts, the ancestors were honored with a libation and hands were joined for a closing Harambee chant.
There were also aspects that made the Delta Arts event stand out. An abbreviated version of the Kwanzaa documentary “The Black Candle,” which is narrated by famed poet and Winston-Salem resident Dr. Maya Angelou, was shown and acclaimed self-taught artist Leo Rucker was honored for being an example of self-determination.
Rucker has a vast body of work, including large murals that can be found at places like the Clark Campbell Transportation Center and commissioned portraits like the one of the late Judge Roland Hayes that hangs in the Forsyth County Courthouse. The artist said he was grateful for the honor and that it would encourage him to create more.
“As long as the Lord will allow my eyes and my ears and my hands and my thoughts to continue to work and function, then I’m always going to continue to create,” he said.
The audience heard words of inspiration from Mercedes Miller, an author, consultant and life coach, who encouraged attendees to set goals and keep a positive focus. Miller enjoined the crowd to remember that black history is littered with bright spots, despite all the pain and injustices.
“Considering the past is extremely important, but make sure that your focus is upon what we have accomplished and not so much what they did to us that was so wrong,” Miller said.
Kwanzaa always draws faithful attendees like William Herring. He regularly dances in the Otesha Creative Arts Ensemble’s men-versus-women dance-off that is held annually on the first night of Kwanzaa, which celebrates Umoja (unity) and is always held at the Winston-Salem Urban League.
At Friday’s event, Herring sported an Ankh necklace that he got during a trip to Egypt. He is a lover of all things Afro-centric and loves the culture, music and style of Kwanzaa.
“We don’t have too many African American celebrations. I try to support as many as I can, and Kwanzaa is one of them,” he said.
Lizzie Tanner said she’s attended the opening ceremony for at least five years at the Urban League, where her husband Willard Tanner, who opened Friday’s Delta Arts festivities, used to work. The Tanners brought their three-year-old great grandson Zion to the gallery for his first Kwanzaa. Zion brought along a pop-up book about Kwanzaa that his great-grandmother purchased for him. She said she’s always enjoyed being at a gathering of those who share Kwanzaa’s values.
“That’s the real meaning, to celebrate all of us being together,” she said.