Originally created 12/15/00

Celebration to show Kwanzaa's creative side



It's easy to get caught up in the idea that tinsel, trees and colorful presents are important during the holidays. But Augusta Black Journalists, a 4-month-old organization, would like to offer a principled alternative.

On Saturday the group will present a pre-Kwanzaa celebration at the Morris Museum of Art auditorium, 1 10th St. A nonreligious holiday based on traditional African harvest ceremonies, Kwanzaa was founded in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga to celebrate black culture and heritage. Traditionally celebrated from Dec. 26 through Jan. 1, Kwanzaa focuses on seven guiding principles: unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith - one for each day of the celebration.

Augusta Black Journalists are presenting a pre-Kwanzaa celebration to aid and educate people who want to celebrate Kwanzaa in their homes or the community.

"As journalists that go out into the community, we learned that there were a lot of people that sent Kwanzaa cards, hung Kwanzaa decorations and maybe had Kwanzaa shirts but did not really understand the principles of Kwanzaa," said Clarissa Walker, president of Augusta Black Journalists and a reporter for The Augusta Chronicle. "They are people who want to celebrate Kwanzaa but are unsure of how to bring the principles and rituals into their own homes."

The program Saturday will focus heavily on the creative principle of Kwanzaa, featuring performances by musician Carl Brown, the Cutno Dancers and the Kuumba African drum group and singing and poetry by Alvin and Shirley Franklin. Dr. Shirley Lewis, president of Paine College, will speak on the significance and history of the holiday and discuss ways to celebrate it simply in the community or at home. Dr. Lewis has made Kwanzaa part of her holiday tradition for more than 30 years.

"It's been interesting for me to have been involved in the establishment of a tradition," she said. "Traditions usually evolve, as Kwanzaa now has, so it was exciting to be able to take part in this new idea tied to old customs. When we first heard about it, it just seemed very natural."

Dr. Lewis said the biggest hurdle to mass acceptance of Kwanzaa is the misconception that it is tied in with religion.

"The point of Kwanzaa is that regardless of what denomination you are, be it Baptist or Methodist or Muslim, or even just thinking about being religious or not being religious, you could still celebrate Kwanzaa," she said. "What is important to remember about Kwanzaa are the seven principles."

For Dr. Lewis, much of the joy of Kwanzaa comes from sharing the ideas and ceremony of the holiday with the uninitiated.

"I'm an educator, a schoolteacher, so of course that is going to make me feel great," she said. "It's a lot like asking me how it feels teaching kids the vowels. It feels great. I am always happy when I can help someone who want to celebrate Kwanzaa interpret its principles in a clear and positive way."

If you go

What: Pre-Kwanzaa in the Garden City

When: 1:30 p.m. Saturday

Where: The Morris Museum of Art auditorium, 1 10th St.

Admission: Free. Call 724-9698.

Reach Steven Uhles at (706) 823-3626.