January 3, 2010

Black NJ: P.O.P. Celebrates Kuumba (creativity) on 6th Day of Kwanzaa

New Years Eve 2009, was the People's Organization for Progress' evening this past year to host one of Newark's Kwanzaa celebrations. For years, each night's observance has been sponsored by a different local organization and because POP's weekly General Assembly is Thursday, this year our turn corresponded to Kuumba, the celebration of creativity.
And because Thursday was New Years Eve, the usual meeting location, the Abyssinian Baptist Church, was completely committed Watch-Night activities and unavailable to POP. But since one of our senior members, Mr. Aminifu Williams is also associated with REFAL we were fortunate enough to get access to their Kommuniversity location. POP Elder Aminifu was also associated with Dr. Maulana Karenga's US Organization in Los Angeles back at the time Kwanzaa in the U.S. originated in the middle-1960s, so POP's Griot, Aminifu, was also able to provide historic background on Kwanzaa's origins that many other celebrations of the holiday lack.

Bringing our celebration back to issues in the community:
Because this was the People's Organization for Progress celebration, we didn't simply follow the order of the activities designated by the Nguzo Saba (the Seven Principles of Kwanzaa). As a community-based festival Kwanzaa demands that we link each of the Seven Principals, Umoja (Unity); Kujichagulia (Self-Determination); Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility); Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics); Nia (Purpose); Kuumba (Creativity); and Imani (Faith) back to our ongoing activism. This year's Kwanzaa had two themes, as well as the principle of creativity that we recognized.
Because Sundiata Acoli (Black Panther Party member and a political prisoner incarcerated for 36 years) is scheduled for a parole hearing scheduled for February, New Black Panther Party Minister of Culture Zayid Muhammad presented a letter-writing campaign aimed at winning Acoli's parole (see link for more information about this campaign). Sundiata (who is 73 years old) is a former NASA mathematician who was arrested and imprisoned for alleged involvement in the shooting death of NJ State Trooper Werner Foerster. Acoli was convicted in 1972 and sentence to Life plus 30 years. This is the same shooting incident that our sister Assata Shakur was framed for after being shot twice.

The second theme for this year's POP Kwanzaa was Youth. Some of the People's Organization for Progress' most successful and inspiring campaign this past year have been thanks to the involvement of our Youth Committee (see The Community Fights for Water Rights & Wins for one electrifying example). Andrea Jones, C0-Chair of the POP Youth Committee, reviewed the past year and presented the committee's plans for 2010.
Lawrence Hamm, POP's chairman, introduced and closed the program explaining the need for self-esteem in the context of the historic experiences of African Americans. Kwanzaa was developed as a component of this assertion of dignity and achievement. The holiday is based on the historic harvest celebrations of many African civilizations. It takes its name from the Swahili phrase "matunda ya kwanza" which means "first fruits."
K'Sakhem Wé, Chairman of REFAL People's Organization for Progress Chairman Larry Hamm
To view more photos from this event, go to People's Organization for Progress Kwanzaa 2009. Thanks to POP photographers Ingrid Hill, chair of POP's Reparations Committee, Labor Committee chair Jon Levine.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the link to the POP Youth Committee's ongoing battle with "Hollywood Booker" over Newark's future. Kwanzaa may seem like simply a cultural holiday, but until we grasp its roots in building and recognizing ongoing struggles and community activism, we don't get it. It becomes just another excuse for sending cards, gift-giving, or whatever. An alternate Christmas, if you will.

Only when we understand that the holiday was organized to recognize the people's struggles and build our community, can we truly appreciate the Nguzo Saba, the Seven Principles…