Hundreds attended the Rochdale Village Community Center's annual Kwanzaa party Saturday. The event, organized by the center and the Jamaica based Afrikan Poetry Theatre, celebrated the rich history and wonder of black culture through song, art, and meditation."It's a wonderful demonstration and celebration for this section of Queens," said Veloney Smith, the director of the RVCC who co-organized the five-hour party. "This is a very excited and electric atmosphere."Kwanzaa is the African-American and Pan-African holiday that celebrates black families, culture and community. Created by activist Maulana Karenga in 1966, the holiday lasts from Dec. 26 to Jan. 1, with each day representing its seven principles: Umoja (unity), Kujichagulia (self-determination), Ujima (collective work and responsibility), Ujamaa (cooperative economics), Nia (purpose), Kuumba (creativity) and Imani (faith)."What makes Kwanzaa popular is its positive nature. We come together and celebrate family," said John Watusi-Branch, the executive director of the Afrikan Poetry Theatre and co-coordinator of the party.Branch's theater group and residents showed off those principles through various activities and events throughout the day. The community center looked more like a cheerful African village with performances by the theater's artists percussion ensemble, a dance presentation and a solo by singer Imani Scott.After a short intermission in the middle of the day, the party took a reflective turn with a reading of the history of Kwanzaa and the traditional lighting of the holiday's candles which represent African-American roots."This holiday is special because it gives African-Americans something to celebrate that's theirs. It's not about the presents or gifts, it's about coming together as a family and community," said St. Albans resident Carolyn Taylor, who came to the party with her young son and daughter.The holiday has grown across America and the world with more than 30 million people celebrating each year, according to Watusi-Branch."It has spread tremendously because this holiday goes beyond religion and commercialism. It's about family and everyone can relate to that," he said.Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at ipereira@t
©2008 Community News Group
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