MONTCLAIR, NJ - On Sunday, more than a hundred people gathered at the Montclair Public Library for its 29th Annual Kwanzaa celebration.

The program opened with Matilda Williams, Service Librarian of the Children's Department of MPL, who addressed  a standing room crowd of all ages, backgrounds and diverse cultures.  "Today is going to be the most colorful, educational day that anyone can have," she said.

Kellia Sweatt, who served as MC, then guided the audience through the telling of the history of Kwanzaa, the energy of the drums and the importance of the dance.

Sign Up for E-News

"Its an honor to be here today. One of the things about Kwanzaa is its a holiday celebration of culture and principle. In doing so, I use the word Sankofa, which means to go back and fetch it, to revisit," said Sweatt.

Sweatt, then sought out the oldest attendee as a sign of respect and honor of our ancestors and Elders. That honor  was bestowed on long time resident and MPL supporter Ronald Murphy who gave permission for the program to proceed.

Mama Yaa, known to many as Paula Yaa Johnson, educator and founder of the Pyramid Dance Company, took the stage next. Yaa shared the story of Kwanzaa, founded in December 1994 by Dr. Maulana Kerenga, highlighting the seven principles as well as symbols, greetings, gifts, colors, decorations, celebration and meditation.

Calling to the audience, Yaa requested the participation of 7 youth attending to read the 7 principles:

Umoja- Unity

Kuhichagulia- self determination 

Ujima- creative work and responsibility 

Ujamaa-cooperative economics


Kuumba- Creativity 

Imani - Faith 

Following the educational portion of the program Yaa turned the program prepared to to make the traditional  ceremonial procession to start the drum and dance portion of the program.

As in tradition, the drums clear the way as the the music portion of the program began. Accompanying Yaa on drums was Montclair resident Billy Bungo along with fellow musicians and dancers danced to the playing of drums.

The Pyramid Dance Group performed several pieces demonstrating traditional dances of rites of passage to celebrating harvest. 

Closing out the program, the drums took center stage as the dancers invited the audience to join in the dance.


For information on programing and upcoming events at the Montclair Public Library go to