(Crystal A. Proxmire, Jan. 1, 2017)
Pontiac, MI – “Kwanzaa is not a show. You are not here to watch or be entertained. You are here to participate,” said Baba Sykes to the dozens of people who came out for the Third Annual Touray Friends and Family Kwanzaa Celebration on Dec. 29.
The event brought people together to teach about the values and traditions of African culture and celebrate the 50th anniversary of the holiday. Kwanzaa was created by Maulana Karenga as a way to bring people of African descent together and inspire them to learn more about their heritage.
Sykes had traced his ancestry to the Mende people of Sierra Leone. Others had bloodlines to Kenya, Uganda, and other African nations. He urged those in the room to “start accepting your Africanness” and to support each other.
Kwanzaa is not a religious celebration, but a cultural one that takes place between Dec. 26 and Jan. 1. Seven principles are celebrated: unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith.
Pontiac Councilperson Kermit Williams gave the official welcome, and focused on the theme of cooperative economics.
“If the 46 million African Americans would all just give $20 back to their community that would be $920 million,” Williams said. “We spend that on gas, but when it comes to our brothers and sisters we want a discount or a hook up… We need to support each other.”
Sykes led the libation ceremony, where water is poured along with prayers for loved ones and community leaders who have passed away, followed by wishes for the future. He called upon people to “bloom where you are planted. Do something. Say something to somebody,’ he said. “There’s more Martin Luther Kings coming, they might be sitting in this room… If we do our jobs, 100 years from now these children will pour libations and call our names.”
Vickie Brent-Touray organizes the event each year. “There’s no denying that the ‘African-American experience’ in itself, is the result of the most devastating mass manipulation of a people group, that this country has ever witnessed or taken part in. A major part of that manipulation has been division and separation. We’re separated by social status, religion, age, and the list goes on. Celebrating Kwanzaa provides us an opportunity to lay all our differences aside and celebrate the one thing that makes us ALL the same: our motherland origins. During this celebration, we share, revisit, teach and encourage the year round observance of ALL seven of the Nguzo Saba (The Kwanzaa principles), because doing so only strengthens our community, in ways that make our Ancestors proud. In this observation, we demonstrate to our Ancestors that regardless of that horrific passage, we thrive in this new land and yet pave the way for future generations to do the same,” she said.
The four-hour-long celebration was filled with children performing skits, merchants selling jewelry, clothes, soaps, candles and other wares, speeches, and a tutorial on hair wraps. The night culminated with a feast made of foods brought by many guests, and a performance by Baba Shomari Matthews and Nanou Diapo Drum and Dance Troupe.
To learn more about Kwanzaa, see http://www.officialkwanzaawebsite.org/index.shtml.