First day of annual citywide Kwanzaa celebration focuses on unity

Celebrations ignited all over the world for the first day of Kwanzaa. Among those celebrations was Winston Salem’s annual citywide Kwanzaa celebration held on Wednesday, Dec. 26, at 6 p.m. at the Urban League.

First day of annual citywide Kwanzaa celebration focuses on unity
January 03
00:00 2019

Celebrations ignited all over the world for the first day of Kwanzaa. Among those celebrations was Winston Salem’s annual citywide Kwanzaa celebration held on Wednesday, Dec. 26, at 6 p.m. at the Urban League, 201 West Fifth St., that celebrated Umoja (unity), the first of the seven principles. The ceremony united young and old in honoring the African heritage with music, family, inspirational messages, dance and art.

The ceremony began with a musical tribute, libation and invocation from Dr. Felicia Piggott-Long, a ritual honoring the ancestors, followed by recognizing the oldest female (90) and male (82). The speaker for the night’s event was Elder Tembila Covington, Ministers’ Conference president.

Covington expressed the importance of unity in joining together to honor heritage. Through her speech, she discussed the meaning of the ants and elephant in the Burkina Faso country. “The ants can be interpreted for when the village assembles and people come together for a purpose, then success can be achieved. The elephant is obstruction toward progress, justice and suppression of African-Americans’ right to vote.” Covington ended her speech by calling for everyone to inspire to be like the ants, for when everyone collectively gathers, then abundance can be reaped and the power to remove elephants can be achieved.

The oldest male, Clarence H. Seniors, who was in the Civil Rights movement, expressed his joy in being the oldest male this year, since he lost the title last year. Seniors explained the significance of Kwanzaa to the African heritage. “Kwanzaa means a lot in renewing our heritage; it reminds us and the world of the rich history, a history concentrated in movement. This is an African-American holiday that holds great value; it provides knowledge in learning about us and our future.” Seniors have close roots with the Urban League, having known  Urban League President Whitney Young. He enjoys seeing all the elderly participate, while honoring ancestors from the past. He plans to return next year to spend time with his granddaughter while enjoying the festivities.

Kenneth A. Pettigrew, chief operating officer at the Urban League, helped organize the Umoja event and expressed his excitement on having the opportunity to be a part of the festivities. “It’s a great experience being a part of the Kwanzaa event. It’s my job, but also a great opportunity being intricately involved in the planning details.” Pettigrew explained the importance of Kwanzaa: “Kwanzaa is a fantastic opportunity to affirm and celebrate blackness; you don’t need permission from oppressors. We did it all ourselves; we need more events and we are not defeated, we still have stuff to live for. I look forward to the freedom of cultural expression, along with being a part of cultural opportunity allowing folks to be in an expressive space.” Pettigrew plans to return next year. He then presented an award to the honoree.

The honoree during the night’s ceremony was Patricia Sadler, former manager of the Senior Community Service Employment Program at the Urban League. Sadler expressed her appreciation in receiving such an honor. “It’s truly awesome to be the recipient; this is the most important award I have received. The award represents recognition of our culture, to affirm ourselves and children, that they come from great kings and queens. It’s truly special coming from the Urban League, an organization that I believe in and support.”

Sadler has been attending the annual citywide celebration every year and even coordinated the event at Urban League until she retired. Sadler believes Kwanzaa is a way to celebrate the African people and all their contributions to the country and world. Sadler’s favorite thing she enjoys most about the festivities is the young kids learning about Kwanzaa, along with the African drumming and dance. She planned to attend several events, including the one honoring Sheriff Bobby Kimbrough.

Attendees appreciated the ceremony’s message. Paiga Jones explained that she looks forward to the messages and stories told by the speakers. “This is my second year attending the celebration; I want my son to experience the festivities. I love the message discussed at the events and believe it express the importance of being together, along with providing lessons about culture and working toward a better future.” Jones plans to return next year and planned to attend Tuesday’s Principle: Faith event.

Dr. Piggott-Long who was a part of organizing the first annual citywide celebration in 1989, is proud of the event. The celebration, which was held in the 70s and 80s, was comprised of friends and family. The event was once held at the Malloy Jordan East Winston library, all in one night. Dr. Piggott-Long had asked different people to take a night due to the celebration growing in size. Ernie Pitt, her employer at the time and former publisher of The Chronicle, even hosted a night. The Piggott family, along with organizations that have been with the event since the beginning, still has their original night, with different people/organizations joining the veterans.

Dr. Piggott-Long hopes more young people attend and churches get involved. She explained the importance of Kwanzaa, saying, “Kwanzaa is love, collective freedom and collective liberation. It affirms whom we are, our identity, and that we are here to stay. We have a purpose and destiny; Kwanzaa is a big family reunion.” Dr. Piggott-Long hopes everyone gives themselves permission to love who they are, while realizing the priceless gifts the ancestors have given everyone to pass on.

Renee Andrews, who has been with the Kwanzaa celebration even before it was citywide, has seen it grow from the days when it consisted of traveling house to house. Andrews explained the importance of Kwanzaa: “Kwanzaa is a way of life for me; I live the seven principles in my daily life. I would love to continue the Kwanzaa celebration and to incorporate the theme of ants uniting to overcome the elephant.” Andrews hoped everyone learned unity from this year’s citywide celebration.

The event ended with African drumming and dancing, along with announcements from Triad Cultural Arts founder, Cheryl Harry. Harry, a vendor along with being an announcer at the ceremony, stressed the importance of providing tangible materials as a means of providing information as a way to reach people. She expressed the significance of Kwanzaa: “It provides our true heritage, forces us to really look at ourselves and to see the beauty in African-American heritage.” Harry hopes for more hands-on immersive activities for next year’s celebration, such as this year’s graveyard cleanup. Harry planned to attend all of the Kwanzaa events and plans to return next year.


About Author

WS Chronicle

WS Chronicle

Related Articles


Featured Sponsor

Receive Chronicle Updates

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.



More Sponsors