Friday, December 28, 2007

Kwanzaa 2007 in the San Francisco Bay Area

Wednesday, at EOYDC, Umoja was really lovely. The vibe was one Baba Abrams would have loved. The youth were involved from beginning to end--many of the little brothers drumming professionally for the first time. I wondered where the little girls were that night behind the drums and in front, but this question was answered when the dance group: Akili Sankofa Dance Ensemble performed.

What was really special was Greg Hodge's invitation to the community to participate and the setting one that lent itself to such. He is also one of my favorite MCs and libation pourers.

Throughout the evening when the spirit hit folks they were up in front of the drummers dancing--it was so cool! Whereas last night at Kijuchagulia, only professional dancers were invited on stage and it was more a show than participatory. This is not a criticism, well actually it is, but I still felt at home. Brother Sidney was a wonderful MC. He sang songs and told stories which invited our response. At the Malonga event no one asked permission from the eldest man and woman to begin. I don't know how that happened.

Wednesday, at EOYDC, on "Umoja," the two elders were seated on a kente draped throne in the center of the audience and when Greg invited all the boys up the elders were there also in the innermost circle--a man and a woman. The two drank from the libation cup and blessed the assembly, especially the young black boys surrounding them. The focus this year was on the youth, young men who are at risk, not that there aren't girls at risk also. This focus was in response to the call Brother Mateen, principal at Castlemont's East Oakland School for the Arts made earlier this month. There was a video shown, narrated by Ise Lyfe which looked at the lack of tolerance young people have for each other when one makes a mistake, also the random handgun violence. Prior to this there was a tape rolling of young men enrolled in the school presently. It was nice seeing live young men, rather than dead ones.

In the closing circle, the boys were surrounded by the men in the room, who were then surrounded by the women. It was like a group hug. The men and boys all were connected physically through a black thread which all held between their fingers. We then opened up the circle and everyone held hands in a connected lineage. We were instructed to look at each other and greet each other visually.

It was so lovely and the karimu was delicious as well. The children explained what the parts of the Kwanzaa table symbolized as they placed the items on it from the mat to the kinara, corn and gifts. The evening had a homey feeling, the kind one feels at the House of Unity. At the Malonga, the table was already set and there time seemed more predefined. But Baba Jahi had gift bags for those who could answer questions about Kwanzaa. This was a nice touch.

There was poetry at Umoja and people from the audience spoke. I felt instant release from all the stuff I'd picked up this year traveling through America, the bleeding sores were healed, the headaches went away. It was so lovely being with African people. There were no white people there.

We were celebrating our victories with each other. The main one, is that we'd made it! We'd lived another year and we're fortifying ourselves to go out once again on the battle field. It was great to see the returning soldiers. It is also a time to count our losses and call their names. Often one doesn't know who's out there until the battle is won, or there is a slight reprieve like Kwanzaa. It helps to know one is not alone. This for me is the spirit of Kwanzaa. It is also great to see the paratroopers or soldiers in training: the youth.

My ears were hurting and I couldn't talk earlier that day. The battle was long and a little harder this year. I'm feeling better now. The TMJ has subsided. I think I'll take a walk while the sun is shining. I am looking forward to going to Nairobi tonight.

Earlier Wednesday, December 26, I took my nieces to the Kwanzaa event at the Bay Area Discovery Museum. It was fun. They made masks, African design purses and did tie dying. What was really fantastic was the lovely setting just below the golden Gate Bridge at a former fort where battle stations were readier to attack invaders. Now, the spot of regional nature preserves. It's a great example of how an instrument of war can be transformed into a place of peace. We went for a walk on a nature trail where we saw the former prison Alcatraz, another transformed space, and Angel Island, yet another place with an ugly history. Human beings certainly know how to mess up the earth, but then again, there is always, with us, the opportunity for retribution and healing and forgiveness.


At 11:49 AM, Anonymous Omo Aso Quilt Project said...

Thank you Wanda for including in your Kwanzaa feature, the "Omo Aso Quilt", a community offering initiated by the vivaARTS network and made possible in part by the Alliance for California Traditional Arts.

A special salute to the "daughters of the cloth" that devoted their special sewing and crafting gifts in making this powerful vehicle of creativity efficacious in support of its mission for the Malonga Center Community: "Healing and Transformation"

We look forward to developing this mediumship of knowledge transfer, while weaving ancient wisdom into the fabric of OUR lives! "...blessed that be the ties that bind"
Regina C. Calloway,
project director/curator


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