Residents celebrate Kwanzaa

By Greg Gelpi

A holiday designed to unite African-Americans as a community and to their past as a culture has lost touch with those in Clayton County, but may be starting again.

The Clayton County Library Headquarters held a Kwanzaa observance for children, but little else happened within the county to observe the celebration of African-American culture this year.

Mary Casey-Bey, who organized a Kwanzaa celebration last year and has celebrated Kwanzaa for about 20 years, said she was unaware of any Kwanzaa activities in Clayton County this year.

Last year, about 75 to 100 people participated in her Kwanzaa observance, she said.

"We were just flooded with people," Casey-Bey said. "This year we were not able to have one."

Having just returned from Brazil, she said she had no time to plan a celebration this year.

"We've gotten so many calls about Kwanzaa celebrations," Casey-Bey said. "We will most definitely have one next year."

The Clayton County Black History Center held its first Kwanzaa celebration Sunday at Dixon Grove Baptist Church, discussing the principles of the holiday, as well as enjoying "soul food," Gail Davenport said.

"We just believe that black history month is all year long," Davenport said.

Although the celebration is the first Kwanzaa observance for the Clayton County Black History Center, she said the organization is planning to have a larger celebration next year. Next year's plans include activities for each day of Kwanzaa.

In the meantime, other Kwanzaa celebrations are being held outside of Clayton County, but within the metro Atlanta area, Casey-Bey said.

"People from Clayton County probably go up to Atlanta," she said. "I've always felt it was a good holiday to observe. I like the principles of Kwanzaa.

"Kwanzaa is a way for family and friends to come together to share positive culture, positive experiences," Casey-Bey said.

Although she held no celebration, the Clayton County Library Headquarters passed the tradition of Kwanzaa to county children.

Chenita Jarrett of the library researched Kwanzaa and designed a program for children ages 5 and up Saturday. The program involved traditional African music, stories and arts and crafts.

Kwanzaa is the African American holiday observance from Dec. 26 to Jan. 1 established in 1966 during the Black Liberation Movement. During the week-long holiday, seven principles of African culture are celebrated, honoring African culture, community and family.

The observance serves to re-root African Americans in African culture, strengthen the ties of African Americans and stress the seven African values.

The seven principles of Kwanzaa are unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith.

Traditionally, Kwanzaa is observed by lighting seven candles during the week, one representing each of the seven values.