Free Kwanzaa program set for Saturday in Dover

The Sankofa African Dance Company will be among the performers at Saturday night’s Kwanzaa celebration at the Sankofa Cultural Arts Center at 39 S. West St. in Dover. The free holiday program begins at 7 p.m. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

DOVER — Kwanzaa’s seven core principles can apply nicely to all, Donald Blakey said.

Who doesn’t need more unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith in their lives?

“It’s an opportunity for people, particularly African-Americans but really anybody, to look at themselves and say what can I do better to support my family, save more money to use in mutually beneficial ways, help the community,” Mr. Blakey said.

“You strive to focus on family, community so you can make the world around you a better place to live.”

Inner City Cultural League Director Kathrina Stroud concurs with that notion.

“I lot of people think it’s a religious celebration but it’s more about tradition, family values and the seven principles,” she said of the annual Dec. 26 to Jan. 1 celebration.

“Although this centers around African-American traditions and history, it’s open to everyone. So many families today are blended and there’s no one thing that applies to just one culture and we don’t want it that way anyway.”

All are invited to Saturday night’s Kwanzaa celebration at the Sankofa Cultural Arts Center at 39 S. West St. The free holiday program begins at 7 p.m. and “is designed to emphasize the moral and spiritual values of people, the expectation of family togetherness, solidarity and pride during this special season,” according to organizers.

The program will feature entertainment from the Sankofa String Orchestra and Sankofa African Dance Company, along with a presentation by Mr. Blakey capturing the spirit and perspective of Kwanzaa and African heritage. The seven principles are known as Nguzo Saba.

Reuben Salters, who founded the league and Sankofa Cultural Arts Center, promised plenty of home cooked food including fried chicken and wings, fish dishes, gumbo, cornbread and more menu items.

According to Mr. Salters, the next generation of leaders will benefit from participating in Kwanzaa activities early in life, whether at home or in community gatherings.

“This is an opportunity for added knowledge, for kids to learn about their history and culture, Mr. Salters said.

“Teaching kids these days is harder to do because they have their cell phones on all the time and don’t pay attention to anything for long. They have a million things to think about and consider.”

There’s no religious aspect to the weeklong Kwanzaa recognition and it’s not meant to replace Christmas.

“While it’s traditional, it’s not a Christmas celebration. It’s just a seasonal celebration,” Mr. Salters said.

“At this time of the year people tend to be in a more festive mood and ready to come together and gather as one.”

The holiday tradition debuted in 1966, resulting from activist, author and California State University-Long Beach professor Dr. Maulana Karenga’s efforts to build pride in the African-American community during the Black Power movement.

“There was a push to move away from the commercialism of Christmas that it had become,” Inner City Cultural League Board of Directors President John Austin said. “The emphasis was on reinforcing values and good principles for living for the African-American community.”

Grant fundraiser continues

The league continues to raise funds for programs that can be matched up to $25,000 by the Delaware Division of Arts grant program. Mr. Salters said about $15,000 has been raised and state awards will be granted in March. The overall pool of available money is $400,000 for nonprofit organizations based in Delaware.

Ms. Stroud said he believes the cultural league’s programs are a viable option for kids already immersed in an array of other activities as well these days.

“There are so many activities to be involved in — they play sports, they do cheerleading and we don’t discourage anyone from doing that,” Ms. Stroud said. “We want them to explore their strengths and interests and look toward the future with confidence in what they’re capable of achieving.

“At the same time we do stress a safe environment here where they can come in anytime and bring their families with them to learn and participate through our programs.”

It’s not easy growing up in the world today and every support system matters, Ms. Stroud said.

“I do believe times are tougher for kids these days with peer pressure, things they deal with at home and at school,” Ms. Stroud said. “There are a lot of kids who are at risk and we hope to provide some structure and awareness in their lives that might help them cope with and meet those everyday challenges.”

Anyone interested in contributing to the fundraising drive can call 241-5813, email Sanicaaf@comcast.net or go online to icclarts.org.

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at 741-8296 or canderson@newszap.com.

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com