MONTCLAIR, NJ - Umoja (unity)! This afternoon Montclair Public Library on South Fullerton Avenue brought the community together by hosting a celebration of Kwanzaa, honoring the African heritage in African-American culture. Kwanzaa is observed from December 26 to January 1, ending with a feast and gift giving.

Over 150 people came out to enjoy this free public event.  There was music, drums and African dancers courtesy of Umoja Dance Company. The African market was comprised of local vendors who lined the corridors with a variety of items ranging from books, to jewelry to local honey.

The event began with a ceremonial lighting of the Kwanzaa candles, a pouring of libations, and a proclamation of the seven principles of Kwanzaa. Tinu Joseph lit the candles while enumerating and defining the key values of Kwanzaa: umoja (unity), Kujichagulia (self determination), ujima  (collective work and responsibility), ujamaa (cooperative economics), nia (purpose), kuumba (creativity), and imani (faith).

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A moment of silence was held for all the suffering going on in the world around us.

Extraordinary drummers elicited high-spirited energy from the dancers. Performers ranged from young children to adults. Because there were twice as many audience members as chairs available, people in all corners of the room, stood and sat, clapping vigorously for the strong and inspirational performance.

After the event Joseph said, “My parents started celebrating Kwanzaa with the founders, in the 1970’s. It is the second time I am here at the Montclair Public Library.” 

Matilda Williams of the Youth Services Department said, “We do Kwanzaa for the community to come together, learn about libation and the seven principles.” Williams has been coordinating this event since 2006.

Face painting was free for children, courtesy of Face Art Work by Chandra. When asked how long she had been doing face and body art, Chandra replied, “I have been painting kids’ faces for over 20 years, but it is the first time I am doing it at Montclair Public Library.”

Vendors Linda and Nina Daniels of the Jersey Buzz, provided free samples of local raw honey. They are beekeepers in Newark.

Adele Carson sold one-of-a-kind jewelry, most of which was hand made. She also had Kenyan textiles and several other items for sale.

An audience member sitting in the front row, Wendy, currently living in Los Angeles, but a former resident of Montclair, was delighted to return and enjoy the celebration. Wendy said, “It is so very nice to come back to Montclair all these years later and join my family in this celebration.”

To contact Matilda Williams of the Youth Services Department, see or 973-744-0500 ext. 2261



Some of the local vendors featured included:

Art by Chandra or 862.576.4398

Adiya Designs or 551.208.0224

Aaron Daniels or 973.342.3105

Karen Love