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The Tangerine

The Student News Site of Utica University

The Tangerine

The Student News Site of Utica University

The Tangerine

OP-ED: Black Student Union hosts spirited 34th annual Kwanzaa celebration

The 34th annual Kwanzaa celebration took place on Dec. 2.
Jonas America
The 34th annual Kwanzaa celebration took place on Dec. 2.

It was truly heartening to see students, faculty, staff, alumni and community members join together at Donahue Concourse to freestyle in dance.

The Black Student Union(BSU) hosted a Kwanzaa Celebration on Sat, Dec. 2, an event they’ve hosted for 34 consecutive years. Kwanzaa is an annual week-long celebration from Dec. 26 – Jan. 1. The secular holiday was created by the pan-African family to celebrate the influence of social values they uphold. 

Keynote speaker and alumnus Dr. Henry Spring Jr., explained the seven principles in his presentation: unity (umoja), self-determination (kujichagulia), collective responsibility (ujima), cooperative economics (ujamaa), purpose (nia), creativity (kuumba) and faith (imani). 

“They’re common principles, reasonable principles that if we lived by, I think there’d be a lot more peace in the world,” attendee Natalie M. Williams said. 

For each day in the week, people bring items that represent the principles and light a new candle on the kinara, candleholder, BSU’s historian Xavier Moore said during his presentation on the history of Kwanzaa. 

“It represents our traditions and our culture and who we’ve become up to this point,” Moore said. “I think acknowledging that and having the time to celebrate and be here for each other is a symbolization of that.”

The evening featured music, conversations, sharing of culture and knowledge. BSU recognized the hard work of those putting on the event, presenting awards to members, advisors, faculty, staff and administrators. Everyone beamed with joy and pride. Laughs and hugs were exchanged. 

The community shared the culture and music that was presented with a partnership Utica Royalties Inc, a local nonprofit founded by Hawa and James Peters. They have been a part of Utica’s Kwanzaa Celebration for the past three years. 

This year’s event kicked off with a traditional drumming beat played by James Peters, accompanied by assistant professor of history Dan Cozart alongside three young men who are members of Utica Royalties. They shared a choreographed dance, one of their newest members sang a song, and they ended the night by inviting everyone to join in on a dance.

“What we always like to do, which is kind of like our signature, is to get the crowd involved in the dance,” Peters said.

She motivated attendees: “Don’t forget where you come from. Don’t forget your roots and don’t forget who you are. You are more powerful than you think. You just have to embrace it.” 

BSU coordinated with two local NAACP/Oneida County Poet Laureate winners, Williams and Jainaba Janneh, to share beautiful, moving pieces they had written. 

Attendees could write a letter addressed to “Dear Black People: A Love Letter to the Culture.” BSU members collected them to place around the BSU room to remember the Kwanzaa celebration. 

Everyone involved shared a love for the community, the culture, and the fact that a lot of people came together to celebrate and connect with one another. 

“It’s really important to celebrate diverse cultures, and that’s what we’re doing here,” BSU president Leah Griffin said. “You make this event, not us.”

BSU Advisor Mark Kovacs praised those involved in making the night happen with a special shout out to the BSU members. 

“It was a lot of work and overwhelming at times, but we pulled together and we got it done,” BSU Vice President Michelle Holland said. “I’m really proud of us.” 

Attendees enjoyed the soul food provided by Sodexo. It was a wonderful event to have been a part of and they made everyone feel welcome. 

BSU Treasurer Ashley Tavarez invited students to join BSU and attend Apollo Night, which BSU hosts in the spring.

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