The former, a Swahili phrase meaning “What is the news?”, was asked by Bro. Webster Wallace as he stood in the front of a meeting room and led Eta Omega Chapter’s 2015 Kwanzaa celebration. The latter, “Ujamaa”, which means “Cooperative Economics” and is one of Kwanzaa’s seven principles, was the response of the nearly 150 guests in the room. Bro. Wallace, appearing regal in a purple and gold African robe and hat, served as master of ceremonies for the event, entitled “A Celebration of Family, Culture and Community”. The Celebration was held on Tuesday, December 29, before a packed house at the Wolf Creek Library in southwest Atlanta. It was open to the public and guests ranged from the small children who attended with their parents to community elders, including 104-year old Bro. Dosh Jackson, the oldest living Omega Man.
Kwanzaa is a week-long celebration that pays homage to the African heritage of the African American community. It was created in 1965 by Dr. Maulana Karenga, an activist and scholar who is currently a professor of African studies in California. Kwanzaa is held annually from December 26 through January 1, with each day highlighting one of its seven principles: “Umoja” (meaning Unity); “Kujichagulia” (Self-Determination); “Ujima” (Collective Work and Responsibility); the aforementioned “Ujamaa” (Cooperative Economics); “Nia” (Purpose); “Kuumba” (Creativity); and “Imani” (Faith). At the Celebration, large signs displaying the seven principles adorned the front of the meeting room. The theme of the event was Ujamaa as it fell on the fourth day of Kwanzaa.
The Celebration was a very informative and interactive event, highlighted by its variety of speakers and performers. Hekima Kanyama of the “Us Lifting Us” economic development cooperative spoke on supporting black businesses. Bro. Wallace, Eta Omega’s History and Archives Committee chairman, gave background information on Kwanzaa while utilizing call and response. Bro. Akbar Imhotep, a professional storyteller, told African folktales. Poet and author Brenda Tillman dazzled the audience with two original selections. African drummer Baba Yoga Bey provided background music throughout the program.
As the Celebration wound to a close, a portion of the acclaimed documentary “The Black Candle” was shown. The documentary discusses the history of Kwanzaa and its growth. Bro. Wallace encouraged the crowd to continue to learn about the history of African cultures. He further suggested that they give inexpensive Afrocentric gifts and books to youth to spur their interest in African history and studies.