By Dr. Jerry Komia Domatob
Unlike some communities all over the globe that thirst in vain for Kwanzaa celebrations, in Mississippi it was the city of Port Gibson that stood out as it observed the event with splendid activities.
Gracing the occasion were enthusiastic drumming, inspiring speeches, historical analysis, deep reflection, symbolic rituals, delicious food and pleasantry exchanges which attracted young, old, rich and poor Sunday, Dec. 30.
Under the leadership of a respected medical giant, Dr. Demitri Marshall, this Kwanzaa celebration served as a major historical and cultural forum. A highlight of the event was Marshall’s and his son’s presentation of Kwanza’s history, principles and application.
Another leading physician in the area, Dr. Anderson, came with her daughter and praised Kwanza as, “a real celebration of people of African descent in the United States, who come together for the same purpose of self-identity and self determination.”
During the ceremony, which took place at Port Gibson’s Plaza, Marshall welcomed guests and paid tribute to the late Baba Afrika, an educator, historian and activist, who launched the Kwanzaa celebration in Claiborne County.
“The occasion celebrated the principle of NIA – purpose,” said Marshall. “We acknowledge the accomplishments of past and present community leaders, who demonstrated purpose as they fought for justice and freedom for our people.”
Jackson Councilman and popular attorney, Chokwe Lumumba, who is running for mayor of Jackson, was the keynote speaker and stressed the importance of the event. Blending historical analysis with contemporary trends, Chokwe linked the relevance of Kwanzaa to future struggles. “Today’s principle is NIA which means purpose. Our collective purpose must be total liberation of our people and the liberation of the world,” he said.
Community leader and activist Evan Doss expressed appreciation to Marshall for the program as well as the many contributions he has made to Claiborne County since he came to the region in 1982. “We appreciate him for putting together this celebration with emphasis on unity as the direction the black community should take. Councilman Chokwe as usual was his brilliant self. A great speaker with vast knowledge; he mapped a path that black people should follow.”
Businessman Larry Pickens participated in the Kwanzaa celebration exclaiming his utter delight for this being the first time he has attended one. “As a people, we should all learn about Kwanzaa to know who we are and to learn about our people. It is something around which we all need to come together. It is eye opening,” Pickens said.
Claiborne County Supervisor Edwin Smith, who described the event as enlightening, praised Chokwe Lumumba for graphically depicting the “historical abuses people of African heritage suffered, as he referenced the classic film Roots and the struggles that lie ahead for black Mississippi.”
Other elected officials, educators and community leaders attending were Mary Newsom, manager of Prestige Plaza; DeWayne and wife LaDella Thomas, who catered food for the occasion; and Sera Afua Dave who brought books and African artifacts for display and to sell. Jerry Jenkins (Khatib Hasan), a Jackson based West African drummer, provided entertainment along with Marshall’s young boys.
First celebrated in the United States in 1966, Kwanzaa was brought into being by cultural nationalist and activist professor Maulana Karenga as an African American festival. Kwanzaa means “first fruits” in Swahili and is based on 7 principles: Umoja (Unity), kujichagulia (self-determination, ujima (collective work and responsibility), ujamaa (cooperative economics), nia (purpose), kuumba (creativity), and imani (faith). It is often celebrated from December 26 through January 1 every year.
Dr. Jerry Komia Domatob is a professor and interim chair of mass communication at Alcorn State University in Lorman, Miss. He is an author, journalist, photographer, poet and researcher. His latest publications are “Communication, Culture and Human Rights” and “Positive Vibrations.” Contact him at Jdomatob@yahoo.com.