Kwanzaa has come to Digby.
Over 70 African-Nova Scotians from around the Digby area took part in the seven nights of Kwanzaa festivities this year.
Brenda Clarke, regional educator with Black Educators Association says this is the first time anyone has officially held this celebration of African-American culture and heritage in southwest Nova Scotia.
“Kwanzaa is a way to reaffirm who we are as African people, to honour our struggles and to recognize and honour our children, our future. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a few years but this year we did it.”
Kwanzaa starts on Dec. 26 and goes until Jan. 1; every night community members gather to celebrate and discuss one of the seven guiding principles of Kwanzaa: unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith.
The nightly discussions in Digby were also brain-storming sessions about how to move the Black community forward. Some of the ideas that came out of the discussions include setting up a mentoring program for local youth, identifying and finding ways to fill education gaps, helping individuals establish a small business.
“And just ways we can support each other,” says Clarke. “One thing that came up over and over is renovating or replacing the community centre. It’s hard to build a community without a common meeting place.”
The present community centre on Robinson Weir Road is mouldy and not currently useable.
For the Kwanzaa nights one community member donated the use of her large living room.
Every night a different family or community member planned and hosted the meetings. Elders, adults and children sat together and discussed the themes.
Clarke says now the community is determined to follow through on the ideas they gathered during the celebrations.
“It isn’t just talk. Now it’s time to go to work. We want to implement these ideas to make our community stronger.”
The sixth night (faith) ended with a feast and story telling. The children also traditionally receive either handmade or culturally significant gifts. This year in Digby they received Afro-centric books about Martin Luther King, Michelle Obama and Viola Desmond for example.
Decorations include pieces of art, bright cloth and a candleholder with seven candles to represent the seven nights and principles.
Kwanzaa is not in any way a replacement or alternative to Christmas. Many people celebrate both but are careful not to mix the two either.
Clarke originally brought up Kwanzaa to the Acaciaville Conway Betterment Association. When they thought it was a good idea she took it to the Digby Education Committee of the Black Educators Association and staff of the Digby Cultural Academic Enrichment Program.
The African Canadian Services Division donated the books for the children.
“The celebrations were wonderfully received,” says Clarke. “The feedback has been positive and overwhelmingly they are saying we need to continue to do this.”