Kwanzaa celebration stresses knowing past

David Broyles Staff Reporter

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The eighth annual local Kwanzaa celebration was observed in Mount Airy Saturday afternoon in the L.H. Jones Auditorium, much as the movement’s founders had designed it to do.

as it’s ceremonies and symbols inspired African American Adults to remember their culture and teach the next generation its lessons.

The celebration began with a prayer by Rev. Thomas Williams who thanked God for the opportunity for the participants to be together again.

“We can’t help but to say thank you in the midst of all our trials and tribulations. You have been so kind, Lord,” said Williams, who prayed for God to allow those present to become better people in service to the Lord. “If we keep our hand in your hand, God, we’ll make it through.”

Bobby Scales read Biblical scripture which supported the annual celebration hearkening back to the children of Israel remembering their history and quoting from Proverbs where the memory of the past is blessed.

The event was sponsored by the African American Historical and Genealogical Society, and drew a crowd of more than 30 to celebrate the holiday, which organizer Dr. Evelyn Thompson said is designed to instill principals of cooperative living and respect for heritage.

“It doesn’t seem like it’s been eight years,” said Thompson, who noted the event started with just eight women. “It was so meaningful. Once you get going with Kwanzaa and know what’s its about you want to be involved.” She told the group much has been lost in the ongoing journey to discover and pass on African heritage.

Thompson told a story of where a 30-year-old at a historic church that once concealed part of the Underground Railroad laughed at the notion because a “railroad” wouldn’t fit under the church.

“I think that tells the story of where we all are in relation to knowing our history and culture. Just to know it. To know who you are and where we are is because of the people who were part of the Underground Railroad is so important. We are still figuring out who we are and who we will be. We want to spread the word to get people to come. It’s the sharing of talents God has given all of us. Whatever you’re willing to share will be welcome.”

Kwanzaa celebrates seven principles, unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith; principles Thompson says are critical for today’s African-American.

The service continued with recognition of elders as they were seated by the drum circle musicians and younger participants walking past the elders to recognize them. Williams also officiated for the blessing of the babies as elders formed a circle around babies, children and mother’s to symbolize the older teaching generations to come.

Eric Stirckland led the group in singing “Lift Every Voice”and Aja and Chandler Brim sang a Kwanzaa song as part of the drum circle.

Thompson reminded those present that Kwanzaa isn’t just a celebration for a day or a week, it’s a lifestyle lived year-round. She explained its principles are spiritual tenets that help followers live a holy life. In addition to the seven tenets, the celebration of Kwanzaa is designed to help people remember those who came before. She said it’s critical to spread the ideals and message of Kwanzaa to young African-Americans.

Marie Nicholson led a libation ceremony to honor those who had died and a ceremony of scriptures and an explanation of Kwanzaa principles and symbols was also held with children lighting candles. The Clark’s Creek Praise Team also performed a dramatic dance routine.

Kwanza is a Swahili word meaning “first fruits” of the harvest. It is a holiday celebrated at harvest time before the dry season begins in those countries. Kwanzaa is observed by millions of people throughout the world as a way to connect and celebrate African family relationship, responsibility to community and culture.

It began in 1966, when Maulana Ron Karenge, a professor of black studies at the California State University, saw a need for Americans of African lineage to hold a regularly scheduled celebration for cultural aspects of Africa.

Kwanzaa is traditionally a seven-day celebration of family, community and culture that is observed from Dec. 26 to Jan. 1, with each day devoted to a specific principle.

Reach David Broyles at or336-719-1952.




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