Shining light on African heritage

December 28, 2018

The seven principles of Kwanzaa should be practiced all year long, says Zynette Paige, supervisor at Weisser Park Youth Center.

But the weeklong celebration of African heritage in black culture, observed from Dec. 26 to Jan. 1 with festivals and rituals, serves as a reminder, Paige said Thursday night as she oversaw the Kwanzaa festival that drew about 300 people.

Those attending were treated to performances from the Weisser Akoma Dance Crew led by Adrian Curry and the band Majestic, along with African food.

On the menu was curry chicken, jerk chicken, African steamed cabbage and rice and peas. Costella Mack, known by all as Miss Mack, is the center’s food service supervisor and oversaw the kitchen staff as Paige commandeered food carts into the auditorium where the entertainment was being held.

Jacqueline Russell, head of kitchen, said all the food was authentic to Africa, but the “plethora” of desserts were not. Those included pound cake, brownies, pumpkin crumb cake and pecan pie.

The celebration of Kwanzaa has taken place at the youth center about 15 years, Paige said. She is always involved and likens the celebration to German Fest or Irish Fest.

“It serves a need in the community. We all come together and celebrate our experiences in America.”

The seven principles of Kwanzaa : unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith : were echoed in the readings and performances.

Students performing with Akoma also stood to say their names, their parents’ names and what they strove to become.

Marketta Jones said her 7-year-old twins, Charlene and Ka’Nija’ Jones, had benefited from participating in the performing group led by Curry. They aspire to be members of Akoma, she said.

“It built Charlene’s self-esteem up and Ka’Nija’s, too. They’re more respectful,” Jones said.

Attending the Kwanzaa celebration was a first for Jones. “I love it,” she said.

It was also a first time for Mycole Ealy, whose 16-year-old niece performed with Akoma.

Just coming to the event made her think she might enroll her 8-year-old son in the “stepping,” a reference to a dance performed Thursday night.


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