WEST ORANGE, NJ - The West Orange African Heritage Organization held the 14th annual Kwanzaa celebration on Thursday, Dec. 20, at Edison Middle School.
The event featured dances, poetry readings and musical performances that encompassed the principles and symbols of Kwanzaa. Before each performance, Chair of the Kwanzaa Committee Renard Barnes explained each principle of Kwanzaa and its application to the community.
Mama Yaa and The Pyramyd Drummers kicked off the evening with a performance appreciating the ancestors, elders and youth of the community by offering libations.
The performance was followed by an inspiring poetry reading by fifth grader Brittany Berry. Berry read two poems titled "I am" by Claudette Sims and Ras Baraka. "I want to be a writer," Berry said. "I want to be a leader, and that is what these two poems are about." Berry's readings moved the audience as she received a standing ovation upon leaving the stage.
The night continued with seven powerful dance performances by Concepts & Choreography that expressed tremendous energy and passion throughout each dance. The West Orange High School Step Team gave a performance of their own which promoted the principle of unity and brotherhood while managing to entertain the crowd with comedic skits between dances.
The performance portion of the show concluded with a four-song medley by "Body & Soul", a jazz band that had no problem stirring up the crowd and closing the show.
In addition to the various performances was the honoring of valued members of the West Orange community. Sandra Mordecai, a dedicated member of the West Orange Board of Education, was named the 2012 Kwanzaa honoree by former WOAHO President Althia Tweiten.
Barnes also made a point to acknowledge the hard work of Greg Bullock, who has been on the West Orange Human Relations Commission for 25 years. "He is definitely in it for us and this community," Barnes said. "I am saying that he is an example of self-determination."
The West Orange African Heritage Organization is a non-profit, volunteer organization that promotes the cultural distinction of West Orange residents of African descent. Founded in 1999, WOAHO is dedicated to preserving quality of life, promoting academic achievement and being an advocate for equality and justice. A list of upcoming events can be found at www.woaho.org.