Hundreds of people braved a mixture of rain and snow to celebrate Kwanzaa, a weeklong holiday that honors African-American heritage and community, at Springfield Gardens High School Saturday.
“A lot of us have forgotten from whence we came,” said Gladys Keller, Queens section president of the National Council of Negro Women, describing the importance of Kwanzaa for the black community. “Everybody started in Africa. And this is about learning about the heritage, our heritage .... You have to know where you’ve been in order to move forward.”
The National Council of Negro Women was a co-sponsor of the event.
The festivities ran from the afternoon to the evening at the school, at 143-10 Springfield Blvd. Throughout the day music, dance and other performances and speeches took place in the theater, while vendors sold an array of African-themed jewelry, clothing and books in the hallways and Southern-style soul food was served in the cafeteria.
The event also included the lighting of the red, green and black kinara candles representing the seven principles of Kwanzaa: unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith.
Kwanzaa was created by Dr. Maulana Karenga, an African studies professor, writer and activist in the 1960s as a way to celebrate African culture.
“He developed Kwanzaa because we as African Americans had nothing to celebrate,” said Carol Allen, board member of the Afrikan Poetry Theatre, a co-sponsor of the event. “We developed it for our interests and education.”
Kwanzaa runs from Dec. 26 to Jan. 1 and features gift-giving and a feast in the final days. Many of its symbols have African roots, which speakers at the event said are important for the African-American community to reaffirm.
“Kwanzaa’s not just here,” said speaker Sonia Diaz, a member of the Afrikan Poetry Theatre, referring to the theater from which she was addressing an enraptured crowd. “It’s not just this week. Kwanzaa is every single day that you live.”
For others at the event, Kwanzaa provided much-needed time to feel part of a community and forget their troubles, even if for a little while.
“We came out to do something fun,” said Eleanor Alexondre, who was at the celebration with her son, Clarence.
She said she traveled from her home in Far Rockaway, a region hit hard by Hurricane Sandy two months ago. She said to be out among others who shared her culture was uplifting.
“I’m so happy right now,” she said, moments after she had been joyfully dancing to music in the theater. “I’m happy to be alive.”
Reach reporter Karen Frantz by e-mail at kfrantz@cn
©2013 Community News Group
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