08KwanzaaThe Umoja Group presents its annual Kwanzaa Celebration Saturday, Dec. 30, from 5-8 p.m. at Smith Recreation Center.

“We are probably near our 25th year offering the Kwanzaa Celebration in the community,” said Wanda Wesley, Umoja Group member and board member. “In the past, and this time, we will be celebrating the seven principles of Kwanzaa and bringing the community together to celebrate as well as learning a little about African kings and queens.” Wesley added that the most important principle is Umoja, which is the Swahili word for unity. This is why the group is called the Umoja Group.

The event will feature a drum call, welcome song, tribute to elders, libation to those who have passed, a parade of African kings and queens, a feast, storytelling, a children’s candlelight ceremony and traditional youth dance performances.

 

“We will have a candle lighting ceremony in which we will light the candles for Kwanzaa,” said Wesley. “The kings and queens (component) is a parade of kings and queens, and that is usually the focal point that everyone looks forward to watching.” Wesley added that individuals will dress up in the form of different African kings and queens and a person will narrate and give a little history about each king and queen.

One of the highlights of the event is the presentation of Shaka Zulu. “We have a certain individual who loves to do that role, and he changes it up from year to year,” said Wesley. “He is Larry Johnson and he works with the school system, and he looks forward to doing Shaka Zulu.”

The Association of Black Social Workers will attend the event this year. “They will be collecting items for Operation Blessing,” said Wesley. “These items include soap, hygienic items, deodorant and paper items.” Wesley added that when participants come they can bring these items to help other people in the community.

A $1,000 scholarship is given every year; two students will receive the scholarship this year. “The students are JaQuayla Hardison and Faith Brown,” said Wesley. “In order to receive the scholarship, the student must be a graduating senior in the E. E. Smith district, be active in the community and in the Umoja Group’s activities, display good character, have a high academic standing and be planning to enroll in an institute of higher learning.”

“We encourage the community to come out and join the friendly atmosphere,” said Wesley. “Please wear your ethnic attire and enjoy the celebration.”

Books will be given away to the children. Bring your favorite food dish to share. The event is free and open to the public. For more information, call (910) 485-8035 or (910) 527-2460.

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