On December 13, Legacy continued its tradition of Kwanzaa programs with the first one to take place in the newly opened Legacy Activity Center (LAC) next to the Museum.
A group of Girl Scouts and several members of the Museum board of directors learned about the origin and significance of Kwanzaa through the drumming, singing, and talking of Royal Shiree Jones. Thanks to this entertaining and painless teaching method, the group learned, among many other things, that Kwanzaa is not a substitute for religion or religious festivals, but a way of celebrating life by drawing upon elements of various African harvest festivals. It was inspired by the desire and need of African Americans to learn about and develop pride in their origins.
Celebrating Kwanzaa includes teaching important principles for life. Ms. Jones told the group that programs cannot begin without requesting permission of the elders present. After permission was requested and granted, she began drumming and speaking of the significance of drumming. In Africa, drumming is used for celebrations and funerals, as well as for spiritual purposes. Slaves transported the practice of drumming with them to America. Slave owners feared the hypnotic rhythm and possible communicative powers of drumming and banned it on plantations. According to Ms. Jones, drums were indeed used for communication purposes.
While drumming, Ms. Jones taught the group an African greeting,Habari Gani, which means “What’s new?” She also taught about the seven principles of Kwanzaa: unity, self-determination, collective work and cooperation, economics, purpose, creativity, and faith. Her presentation included several proverbs, such as “Some people are like the country road – they may look pretty, but be crooked.” Another was “A fish will not be caught if it doesn’t open its mouth.”
Phyllistine Mosley, a member of the Legacy board, presented the second part of the program. She had set up an attractive display with symbols of Kwanzaa and seven candles representing the seven principles. After explaining the display, she taught the children how to make decorations and gifts from readily available and inexpensive materials. For example, they learned to make lovely place mats by weaving with paper from grocery bags. Each participant received a beautiful bookmark decorated with Kwanzaa symbols made by Mrs. Mosley.
Should there be mistakes in this article, the author will realize the truth of, but receive no comfort from, this African proverb: “If the mouth (writing hand) stumbles, it is worse than the feet.”