By Mrinal Gokhale
Hundreds filled the Wisconsin Black Historical Society on the blustery evening of Mon, Dec. 26 to celebrate the first day of Kwanzaa, a seven day African American holiday that goes from Dec 26-Jan 1.
This night honored the principle of “Umoja” also known as “unity.” The other six principles are: Kujicha Gulia (self-determination), Ujima (cooperative work and responsibility), Ujamaa (cooperative economics), Nia (purpose), Kuumba (creativity) and Imani (faith).
Wisconsin Black Historical Society Director Clayborn Benson, who has been hosting this celebration for decades, stated the importance of Kwanzaa as it relates to African cultural roots. This night featured a drum and open dance, along with a prayer for those who lost their lives in the year 2016.
“The holiday gives affirmation to who we are as people, starting as Africans,” he began. He also credited the Milwaukee NAACP Youth Council for creating the Fair Housing Act which prohibits landlords and property owners from denying the chance to rent or purchase a home due to someone’s protected class.
“They marched 200 days and nights around Milwaukee and they took a bus trip to Washington, D.C., met with President Johnson and testified before Congress. In April 12, 1968, they passed the civil rights bill, the Fair Housing Act,” he said.
After a moment of prayer to those who lost a loved one this year, the Nafeteri African Dance Company performed African drum and dance, allowing attendees to join the fun. Marilyn Douglas, director of Nafeteri introduced the young dancers and drummers.
“Nafeteri has been around since 1968, started by North Division High School alumni, and I took over in 1977,” she said.
Drummers then proceeded to play the drums while the youth performers from Nafeteri started their performance. Audience members were eventually encouraged to join them.
Before ending the event, Benson made sure to honor both college students and children ages 6 and under by calling them to the stage.
The young children who chose to step up were individually lifted up in the air, as the crowd sang “Look at sister/brother . S/he is black and beautiful. Power to the people, power to the people, power to the people. S/he is black and beautiful!”
Some other places celebrating Kwanzaa throughout the week include the Body and Soul Healing Center, and the Wisconsin African American Women’s Center.