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Published 12/26/2019 | Reading Time 1 min 28 sec 

By BWSTimes Staff 

TULSA, Okla. — On the first day of Kwanzaa, Umoja (Unity), the sound of beating drums fills an auditorium appropriately named Ancestral Hall inside the Rudisill Regional Library.

While the musical vibrations permeate the ether, community members welcome a procession of elders into the hall with a standing ovation. The elders take their rightful position — seated at the head of the room, facing the audience. This year the elders are three city officials from the Greater African American Affairs Commission: Thomas Boxley (Chair), Kristi Williams (Vice-Chair), and Margaret Love (Commissioner). 

“This is an important event for Tulsa. It actually helps to challenge the community, especially before the new year, to make a commitment to the community. The community needs all of us to pitch in to make it better.” Vice-Chair Williams said. She added, “I hope that with this event, people will come away learning something different, something new because it is such a beautify tradition that we can continue to have in our home. I think it can actually make the black family stronger.” 

Commissioner Love explained that “Kwanzaa was created to bring us together, and all seven principles are for us to find our way back as a unified body.” She added, “That is my hope; that we come together and bring our children and make them a part so they too can walk in our shoes and move forward.” 

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Kente cloth rest atop rectangular tables in the back of the hall; underneath, free books for kids and libations for the ancestors. At the front, a single table with Kwanzaa decorations. The most noticeable ornament, the Kinara, a stand made to hold seven candles representing each day of Kwanzaa.

The celebration began with community members singing the Black National anthem, accompanied by Dewayne Dickens playing the piano; later in the program, some community members shared poetry, songs, and dance. 

Alicia Latimer, the library’s supervisor, has led the city’s annual Kwanzaa festival for the past 13 years. She said that the celebration was a way to ensure that African-American children didn’t lose their sense of culture.

Kwanzaa is celebrated annually from December 26 to January 1. For more information about how to celebrate Kwanzaa, click here

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