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Kwanzaa Celebration at the Phills Wheatley Center

On Friday, December 30th, we attended a Kwanzaa Celebration at the Phills Wheatley Center on Cedar Avenue that was put on by Golden Ciphers, Inc. which, as the program notes indicated, "is an African American grassroots organization designed to assist in reconnecting our family structures and recreating our communities (villages), thus empowering us to grow mentally, culturally and spiritually, developing healthier communities and lifestyles."

This is certainly consistent with Kwanzaa, which was first established in 1966 and is now in its 50th year, and the seven principles on which it is based which are Umoja (Unity), Kujichagulia (Self-Determination), Ujima (Collective Work & Responsibility), Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics), Nia (Purpose), Kuumba (Creativity), and Imani (faith).

Kwanzaa runs seven days from December 26th to January 1st and on each day a particular principle is emphasized. Thus December 30th was the day of Nia/Purpose defined as "to make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness."

Ms. Pam Hubbard, the Executive Director of Golden Ciphers who worked especially hard to organize the event, described Kwanzaa as a fun time but a serious time when one looks back upon the history of his/her culture and uses this history as a basis to move forward.

Present with us were Mr. Paul Hill and Ms. Doris Willis who took part in the first Kwanzaa celebrations in Cleveland years ago. They both believed that the seven principles should be upheld as guideposts in terms of living a life of fulfillment and meaning. Ms. Willis said that she considered Nia/Purpose to mean making her community a better place than it was when she first came to it.

The celebration at the Phillis Wheatley Center included other testimonials, poetry readings, a performance by the Renegade LDGS African Dance Team, all of the attendees coming together for a rendition of "Lift Every Voice and Sing", and a dinner of hot soup and corn bread.

In addition there were two activities that absolutely wowed us. "Wowed" is the only word that can describe them.

The first was a performance of the GC Family Drummers lead by Baba David Coleman that inspired everyone in the audience (of all ages) to rise from their chairs and clap their hands and, as Baba Coleman chanted, "dance to the beat of the drum" for what was probably a half hour. Taking part in this flurry may have tired our bodies but it definitely energized our spirits.

The second was when Mr. Frank Ross taught all of us how to be components in the "Grand March" just as he has done at gatherings throughout the country.

Mr. Ross is a serious scholar of African American traditions, culture, and history and it troubled him that for along time his people had no "cultural dance" so he is working very hard to promote/revive the "Grand March" that can be traced back to the Egyptian dynasty at the time of the pharaohs.

It would be tough to describe the actual movement but it reminded us of the creative maneuvers that military drill teams often do at parades.

Mr. Ross possessed the ambiance of a patient drill instructor who knew exactly what he was trying to accomplish and we responded well to his clear, concise directions. At the end of the exercise, it is safe to say that Mr. Ross had earned the respect of us all for both his style of teaching and his personal Nia/Purpose for imparting the "Grand March" to us so we might impart it to others.


Michael Patterson

Community Liaison,

Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC


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