Kwanzaa Celebration in New Jersey

On Saturday, Dec. 14 New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) held its all-day Kwanzaa Celebration. The program consisted of a Children’s Festival, a Kwanzaa Market Place, a Tribute to the Elders with a full Kwanzaa mazao buffet spread for all to partake, and a performance by Forces of Nature Dance Theatre.

In spite of the horrendous weather, the event was well attended and the spirit was upbeat. The Children’s Festival included craft workshops, dancing, drumming and singing. The Elders Tribute began with a procession lead by the drummer, with elders following into the Chase Room where the tribute was held.

Baba Chuck Davis, founder and artistic director of DanceAfrica, who had just returned from Santiago, Cuba lead the elders into the room and to their seats at the head table. Could that mean that the Cuban Folkloric Dance Company will headline “DanceAfrica 2014?” I’m just speculating.

Forces of Nature Dance Theatre did two performances of the program entitled, “A Kwanzaa Celebration.” The last performance began with The Procession of Elders. After they were seated, Olabamidele Husbands, co-founder, CEO and company manager of Forces of Nature proceeded with the traditional pouring of the libation and talking about the seven principles of Kwanzaa, the Nguzo Saba. Then the dance began.

Forces of Nature is a very dramatic and accomplished company, and they performed the Artistic Director, Abdul Salaam’s choreography exquisitely. The dance was in five parts: “Rhythm Legacy,” “Continental Drift,” “Grey Flannel Matter,” “Club Legacy” and “A Question of Modesty.” The concert was a history lesson executed in rhythm and movement.

On Sunday there was another program of holiday celebration. Sinbad and Mary Mary presented a Gospel and Comedy Celebration. Sinbad preceded Mary Mary with topical humor and tongue and cheek advice to parents on raising their teenage children. He even put out a call to Kanye West, asking him to come home and get back to himself. He added that, if its big butts that intrigue him, he needs to come to Newark and walk with him down Market Street, plenty, plenty there!

Mary Mary, Erica Atkins-Campbell and her sister Tina Atkins-Campbell delivered a soul stirring faith-based inspirational show, celebrating self-reliance and upliftment. Those sisters can really sing. They set a high bar as they sang, strutted “their stuff” around the stage and reached out to the audience. The audience wasn’t half-steppin’ either. They were the choir. They knew the lyrics and sang them with joy and feeling. The call and response was in full effect as they joined Erica and Tina in singing, “Get Up,” “Heaven,” “Go Get It,” “Walking,” “Yesterday,” “Can’t Give Up,” “Something Big,” “Little More Jesus,” and more. There was dancing singing, hand clappin’ and toe tappin’ going on. They were holding church up in there!

NJPAC is located in Newark at One Center Street. For information on future programs check their website: or call 973-642-8989.

© Amun/Ankhra House, Ltd.

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