WEST ORANGE, NJ — On Friday, Dec. 28, the West Orange African Heritage Organization held its annual Kwanzaa celebration at Washington Elementary School. The celebration was held on the third day of Kwanzaa: Ujima, collective work and responsibility. This year’s theme was “Return, Reclaim, Restore and Rejoice,” for “Return to our roots, Reclaim our forgotten history, Restore it in ourselves and in our youth, and then Rejoice in the triumph of success.”
The gymnasium of the school was transformed into an African bazaar, with the room staged in theater style surrounded by what looked like an African village. There were vendors displaying and selling various crafts and wares such as jewelry, children’s books, artifacts, paintings, body creams, oils, fabrics and clothing.
On the stage, an arrangement of the Kwanzaa table was displayed. The Kwanzaa table was endowed with an abundance of fruits and vegetables, representing past and future prosperity; and the Kinara with the seven candles representing the seven principles as they relate to the seven days of Kwanzaa. To remind the guests and cement an understanding and appreciation of the celebration, all around the room in beautiful graphics, the principles were demonstrated.
The room was filled with soothing and exhilarating music, representing African heritage. Children’s voices filled with expectation and joy mixed in with guests taking the “cultural challenge test.” Prizes were given to those who answered the most questions. Around the far side of the wall were seven tables filled with delectable dishes from the diaspora. One could not ignore the tantalizing aroma coming from the dishes.
The youth and teens were engaged in arts and crafts. They created wearable and decorative pieces of art, such as maps of Africa, “thank you” bracelets for their parents, lanterns and crowns ornamented with jewels “fit for a king.”
After the official welcome from WOAHO President Althia Tweiten, the elders were asked if the celebration could commence. The answer was “yes, you may.” Then, the Black National Anthem was delivered by Robert Simmons, the financial secretary of the organization.
The nearly 200 guests were then heard from the guest speaker of the evening, Larry Hamm, from the People’s Organization for Progress. The guests were then entertained by the SuperGirls Drummers and a group of dance students from William Paterson University.
This year, the celebration was chaired by Yvonne Nambe-Roach, her husband, Michael Roach, and the following committee members: Teheshia Aaron, Robert Simmons, Linda Robinson, Darwin Davis, Doris Moses, Joyce Harley and Patrecia West.
“The planning and preparation of this event was truly a labor of love; we were giving back to the community that we love and appreciate. I look forward to working with the committee next year when we hope to extend our guest roster to organizations outside of West Orange,” Nambe-Roach said, adding that she and the committee are looking forward to next year’s celebration with great expectations.