Sunday, January 3, 2016

Kwanzaa Celebration in NWA

Kwanzaa NWA Celebration

Habari Gani?


Fayetteville, AR. Participants of the Kwanzaa Celebration repeated the Swahili Word Nia (Purpose) thought out the evening as the hostess led the program with Habari Gani” which means, Whats the News”  and the news was Purpose! This event was held December 30 in Fayetteville at Dwelling Place Church under the leadership of Pastor Marcus Carruthers.
Kwanzaa Committee: Dr. Charlene Johnson-Carter, Jimmye Whitfield, & Leora Jackson

“This is my 3rd time participating in Kwanzaa since Dr. Charlene started hosting Kwanzaa in NWA,” said Marilyn Smith. “ I enjoy renewing my knowledge and experiencing the culture, but the crafts though, it’s not my specialty area.”
Marilyn Smith
Mariyah Smith
Trey Smith

Dr. Charlene Johnson, Associate Professor at the University of Arkansas was one of the hostesses of the event and started planning for Kwanzaa in September 2015 with Jimmye Whitfield, Yoga Instructor and Leora Jackson, Umoja Soul NWA Blogger.

“We had the largest turn-out in all the years I have celebrated Kwanzaa in Northwest Arkansas.  I think folks not only enjoyed the celebration but also learned about our heritage and its importance for our movement further as a people, said Johnson.

The participants of the Kwanzaa celebration had a chance to eat dinner which symbolizes karamu or the great feast. After feasting, Dr. Johnson gave the history of Kwanzaa and discussed the seven principles or Nguzo Saba.

Ms. Jimmye Whitfield, one of the elder members of program, was giving the Unity cup as a way to pay tribute and honor to the elders.
Kwanzaa Table

Jimmye Whitfield

Whitfield also brought in a Guest Speaker Mrs. Veryln Gulley to talk to kids about savings on the principle of Ujamaa or Cooperative Economics.

Gulley talked about credit and savings and a 9-year old girl raised her hand when she asked the kids, "Who has a Savings Account?"

Out of 7 kids in the room, ranging from age 5 to 13, she was the only one with a Savings account.

“It was such fun!  It seemed the grown-ups were just as involved or more as the kids,” Whitfield said. 

“Mrs. Gulley said she would love to continue with educating our people on the most important subject of money and banking.”
Verlyn Gulley talk on Savings
Veryln Gulley, Arvest Speaker

 After the presentation from Gulley, all participants were given arts and crafts to create a shield to define their purpose.

Alise Whitfield, age 9 said, “I like the event because it is a way to acknowledge our ancestors.”

Sy’ree, age 8 said “I like learning more about Kwanzaa and spend time with other people and the craft is great because you have a chance to do what you want to do. Sometimes I want to be creative to see what I can make.”
Mr. John L. Colbert & Sy'ree Colbert-Diaz
Sy'ree lights the candle of Nia

Missy Womack and her son 11 year old son were at the event for the first time.

“It is lovely. It is nice that kids are enjoying themselves. I enjoyed how you allowed the kids to be part of the event to light the candles," said Womack.

Victor Quintana and his wife Jane Stitt were excited to be there as newcomers as well.
Victor and Jane Quintana

Victor Quintana

Jane Stitt
“This was something fun. It is a new holiday and it is great to learn something about a new culture,” Quintana said.

Gwen Kelley who was present at the event acknowledged that it was a great evening of community celebration.

And indeed it was!!!

All participants, including adults created crafts and had a chance to describe their crafts. Crafts of a person in the center of a snake described a teacher protecting her students from the woes, discrimination, racial injustices of society. Another craft was pictures of fashion and a child’s purpose was to become a fashion designer, another was pictures of food and different culinary dishes and this described a girls dream and purpose to become a chef. Some crafts looked at combinations of the Kwanzaa principals and elaborated with details on each one and combined elements of family togetherness on others.

Kathy Hall summed it up best, “It was such a privilege and a blessing to be part of the celebration. The more I contemplate Kwanzaa, the more genius it seems. What a beautiful and gentle way to affirm choice and purpose and how the whole community is blessed by the individuals who are its fabric.”

Dr. Johnson gathered the group together at the end of the craft presentation and had them to repeat a new word, “Harambee”, or Let’s pull together.

For the group, the community and the nation, we must pull together!

Happy Kwanzaa!
by Leora Jackson

Photos by Timberly Whitfield and Leora Jackson

Photos of Crafts that define a person's Nia or Purpose: