Religions and Spirituality

West Orange African Heritage Organization Celebrates Kwanzaa

The Kwanzaa table in front of the stage at Washington Elementary School. Credits: Caitlin O'Keefe
A view from the crowd at the Kwanza Celebrations. Credits: Caitlin O'Keefe
Debbie Kirkland from AfroCentric Parties and her puppet Princess Tanya teaching Kwanza to the children. Credits: Caitlin O'Keefe
Jill Tekel for the Adler Aphasia Center selling crafts and jewelry made as therapy by stroke survivors, all proceeds benefit and is used for scholarships for the center.  Credits: Caitlin O'Keefe
MerySeerket Antiefrut explaining the benefits of Alkaline Ionized water and other wellness tips for Windows of Wellness. Credits: Caitlin O'Keefe
Seasonal craft display. Credits: Caitlin O'Keefe
Roanne selling her menagerie of chocolates and booking chocolate parties through Credits: Caitlin O'Keefe
72691dd3878120decb41_K8.jpg owner Kim uses local ingredients to craft her handmade jams. Credits: Caitlin O'Keefe
Washington Schools' principal Marie Demaio and West Orange Mayor Robert Parisi enjoying the festivities. Credits: Caitlin O'Keefe

WEST ORANGE, NJ - The West Orange African Heritage Organization held its 15th annial Kwanzaa celebration at Washington Elementary School on Thursday, Dec. 19. This year, Kwanzaa will be observed from Dec. 26 through Jan. 1, and the event that began in 1966 to celebrated African American cultural roots and history will embody its seven principles, one for each day of Kwanzaa

  • Umoja (Unity): To strive for and to maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and race.
  • Kujichagulia (Self-Determination): To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves, and speak for ourselves.
  • Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility): To build and maintain our community together and make our brothers' and sisters' problems our problems, and to solve them together.
  • Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics): To build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses and to profit from them together.
  • Nia (Purpose): To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.
  • Kuumba (Creativity): To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.
  • Imani (Faith): To believe with all our hearts in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders, and the righteousness and victory of our struggle."

Upon entering the Washington School Gym where the event was held, seats were set up facing the stage for storytelling and performances. Along the back of the Gym were a several vendors selling everything from handmade therapy crafts from the Adler Aphasia Center to local homemade Jams by Kim. There was a craft and puppet exhibit where Princess Tanya told the tale of Kwanzaa and another table with health and beauty products. Free food was given out through the event and a table was set up for donations. After an hour of social time the performances began on stage. The WOHS Step Team did an original dance, and audience and organizers together sang the African National Anthem after the Pledge of Allegiance.  The event drew a crowd of nearly 100 people and was extremely welcoming to new faces. 

To all celebrating "Heri za Kwanzaa" - Happy Kwanzaa.

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