Rochdale Village residents come together for Kwanzaa

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The spirit of Kwanzaa filled Rochdale Village Sunday as the apartment complex held its fourth-annual celebration of the African-American holiday with the Jamaica-based Afrikan Poetry Theatre.

“Kwanzaa is a celebration that has been going on for 43 years. It’s a non-religious holiday,” explained Byron Perry of the Afrikan Poetry Theatre. “We’re having a lot of performances, most of them based out of southeast Queens.”

John Watusi Branch, executive director of the Afrikan Poetry Theatre, said the organization held its own Kwanzaa celebration for 37 years before partnering with Rochdale Village four years ago.

“We have come together to make it a real community event,” he said. “The real meaning of Kwanzaa is collective work.”

“This celebration is to celebrate who we are as an African people,” Watusi Branch told the crowd at Rochdale Village, who viewed a variety of African dance performances and African drumming groups. “It’s a family coming together, sharing and participat­ing.”

Kwanzaa was created in 1966 in Los Angeles as a celebration of African culture. It is based on seven principles: umoja (unity), kujichagulia (self-determination), ujima (collective work and responsibility), ujamaa (cooperative economics), nia (purpose), kuumba (creativity) and imani (faith).

Vendors were also on hand showcasing their wares, including handmade jewelry, African dolls and masks and beauty creams.

Teneria Drummond-Smith was selling what she called candyheads — a doll’s head with candy fastened to the scalp.

Drummond-Smith said she got the idea from “just being creative.”

“I wanted to start something I can call my own,” she said. “Something that’s unique but sellable.”

Earth Rowe, of Springfield Gardens, was selling her Elements of Earth jewelry line.

“It’s all handmade, inspired by women, made by nature,” she said.

The collection included semi-precious stones, including mother of pearl and onyx.

Karen Corenthal, of Rochdale Village, said she has been coming to the celebration since it began four years ago.

“I come every year and I always know it’s very exciting,” she said. “It’s very colorful and the music is mesmerizing and the African marketplace is just beautiful. It attracts everyone from the community and surrounding area.

Corenthal said she would make sure to visit all the vendors.

“I’m probably going to go home and get some more money,” she said.

Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 173.

Posted 6:30 pm, October 10, 2011
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