Participating children learn to ‘know better, do better’
By Dwight Hobbes
There is something to be said for Kwanzaa not being as well known or widely celebrated as the birth of Jesus Christ. It has not yet been corrupted into the sham of crassly exploitative commercialism that long ago claimed Christmas. Celebrants who honor Kwanzaa honor community.
Accordingly, Imhotep Science Academy (ISA) will be holding their Family Kwanzaa Celebration and Fundraiser at the Network for the Development of Children of African Decent (NdCAD) on Dec. 27, the day of Kujichagulia (self-determination), the second day of Kwanzaa.
In brief, the holiday observes a weeklong celebration Dec. 26 through Jan. 1 to revere African American heritage and culture. This event is organized by the parents of ISA. There will be a short Kwanzaa program, including the lighting of the kinara: During the weeklong celebration, seven candles are placed in the kinara (Swahili for candleholder) with a candle being lit each day.
Youngsters will construct kinaras for the occasion and, in the communal spirit, families are encouraged to share stories, dance and songs. There’s also a bake sale, book sale and silent auction. Proceeds will help reduce the cost of students attending the Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center and the National Council of Independent Black Institutions Science Expo to be held in Washington D.C. in spring 2012.
Anura Si-Asar, cofounder and coordinator of ISA with his wife, Rekhet Si-Asar, enjoyed this undertaking last year and looks forward to doing it again. “[It’s] very satisfying. We are planting seeds of identity, culture, heritage and history. Hopefully, these seeds will blossom and create a new generation of conscious community members that can help solve our collective problems using their background, values and cultural capital, which too often Black folks don’t know they have.”
He adds, “I have been celebrating Kwanzaa since 1988. I look forward each year to this holiday, because it is one of the few that I connect to and really enjoy.”
You do not have to be a parent at Imhotep Science Academy to participate. There certainly is no such restriction on attending, bringing your own children, and having a fine time while contributing to a worthwhile cause.
“The event,” says Rekhet Si-Asar, “is a family celebration. We want the families to experience it in a way where they can see how easy it is to continue on with the celebration in their own homes.
“This year, our celebration lands on the second day, the day of Kujichagulia. This is very fitting, because this day represents what we are trying to teach in the academy — self-determination. We want the children to understand how important it is for them to determine their own destinies and plan their own experiences while working mutually with others in their community.”
While it’s sponsored by the school, is held at a school, and it’s a cultural event, the Si-Asars also want the kids to simply have fun. She continues, “When you attend you will see children assisting with the opening drumming, children making the kinaras, maybe playing, sharing some of their talents and or selling books, baked goods, and/or some of their arts and crafts as a part of a bazaar, and getting down in a ‘Soul Train line.’
“Since the Imhotep Science Academy’s schedule is a full one for the students, the participation in the Kwanzaa event is optional for families. Most of the families, however, usually attend and participate. Each year we have a family or two who are totally unfamiliar with the celebration, so they are often excited to learn more, and their children express a lot of excitement about celebrating their own heritage and learning more about the things that contribute to their culture. Every opportunity our children get to come together with each other in this communal way has them almost uncontrollably overjoyed.”
A mom herself, Rekhet notes, “Seeing the children engage in this celebration is satisfying, especially as a parent. I want my children to not just go to events; I want them to understand that these are parts of their cultural practices that have to be grounded in their daily experiences, so the annual family celebration is something that they will one day be responsible for planning for their family and maybe even the community.
“To see their engagement and anticipation is really, really satisfying. It tells us that they are not going to let our culture drop. They will be prepared to and hopefully willing to organize these gatherings, extend beyond their individual families, and engage in this event in celebration of their self-determination and their pride in their community.
“That of course makes me very proud,” says Rekhet. “A sister of mine just shared a post that she said some young folks in her life were recently, to her delight, throwing around. It’s one I know many of our parents used to say: ‘When you know better, do better!’ This is what exposure to our cultural practices hopefully will do for our children — allow them to do better.”
Imhotep Science Academy’s Family Kwanzaa Celebration and Fundraiser at the Network for the Development of Children of African Decent is at 655 Fairview Ave. in Saint Paul on Tues., Dec. 27, 6 to 8:30 pm. For further info, email [email protected]
Dwight Hobbes welcomes reader responses to P.O. Box 50357, Mpls., 55403.