Kwanzaa catches on in Mount Airy

First Posted: 1/1/2009

Ba-dam. Ba-dam.
The enticing sound of drums pounding fused with yelping and swaying bodies captured the audience of a little more than 40 that came to celebrate family, community and heritage at the Kwanzaa Celebration held at Mallalieu-Jones United Methodist Churchs fellowship hall yesterday.
The mixture of young and old united to celebrate the last day of the African-American holiday which is intended help African Americans reconnect with their African cultural and historical heritage and celebrate in unity their ancestral roots.
Its the last day of Kwanzaa but we live it all year long, Dr. Evelyn Thompson, one the events key organizers, said of the seven-day holiday, which is traditionally observed from Dec. 26 to Jan. 1.
The three-hour community event, which was sponsored by the African American Genealogical and Historical Society of Surry County, included music, dance, historical presentations, guest speakers, fellowships, family gifts and refreshments.
Until Thursday afternoon, Anthony King knew little about Kwanzaa until he celebrated it with his family and friends.
Its so colorful and bright, it celebrates the bright things in life, King said of the ceremony. I learned so much when they talked about our ancestors.
Elaine Shoffner has supported the AAGHS for years, and attended the local Kwanzaa celebration for her second time since its 2006 inception yesterday.
Its great to spread the knowledge of Kwanzaa … its important history and Im glad that kids are participating, too, she said. Its refreshing to the mind because this is real family everyones getting involved and expanding their knowledge.
Shoffner added that the traditional African dance presentation was impressive, along with the historical information and background by the speakers.
Dr. Maulana Karenga, an African-American political activist and author, created the holiday in 1966.
It focuses on seven principles for each day in its week-long observance, which include Umoja (Unity), Kujichagulia (Self-determination), Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility), Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics), Nia (Purpose), Kuumba (Creativity) and Imani (Faith). The center piece of Kwanzaa is the Kinara, which holds seven candles. Each candle represents a different principle, like unity, purpose and faith.
While Kwanzaa recognizes principles that can be easily associated with Christianity, said Thompson, its not a religious celebration.
But neither are many other holidays that are nationally observed, she said. It does bring out principles Christians know and practice. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you runs all through this.
You should be reminded of these principles of life every day and ask yourself what do they mean to me and my family? Thompson added.
She also encouraged all those who are unfamiliar with the holiday and its purpose to change their misconceptions by attending a ceremony.
I think those who are against it often dont understand it, she explained. I invite them to learn about it and share their thoughts and feedback. I welcome their opinions.
This years celebration marked the third year the AAGHS organized the event, since it was initially started in the basement of Thompsons home with only seven people in attendance.
Its grown as our interest and involvement has grown, she said. We hope to get more people involved. The people who experienced it will tell others about it and come again next year.
And thats what Sellinale Lomalangeni Dlamini Hill plans to do Jan. 1, 2010.
It reminds me of home. I enjoyed playing the drums and thats what I wanted to teach my son, said Hill, who lives in Stuart, Va., but is originally from Swaziland in Southeastern Africa. I think Ill bring some friends back next year.
Contact Erin C. Perkins at [email protected] or 719-1952.

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