‘Uplifting the African-American Community’

‘Uplifting the African-American Community’
December 31
00:00 2015
Photo by Tevin Stinson
Above: Members of The Otesha Creative Arts Ensemble perform during the opening celebration of Kwanzaa on Saturday, Dec. 26 at the Winston-Salem Urban League.

New Urban League leader touts Kwanzaa celebration

By Tevin Stinson

The Chronicle

All week long African-Americans are reconnecting and celebrating their African roots.

Last Saturday marked the opening night of Kwanzaa, a seven day holiday that was designed to tout African-American values that have helped to sustain African-Americans during their most turbulent times.

Over 150 citizens attended a kick-off event held at the Winston-Salem Urban League (WSUL) which was filled with Kwanzaa traditions such as African instruments and dance performances.

According to newly appointed president and chief executive James Perry, the event gives the community a chance to experience their heritage.

“Most importantly, this event is about uplifting the African-American community and coming together as one,” said Perry. “I think this event is less about teaching and more about the experience.”

The African American and Pan-African holiday was founded by California State University professor Dr. Maulana Karenga in 1966.

Each day is dedicated to a principle: unity, self-determination, responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith. A candle representing each principle is lit during the celebration. Umoja or unity was the theme of the opening night.

During the Winston-Salem celebration, attorney Hazel Mack and Ruth Hopkins were presented with awards for their hard work and dedication to the community. Mack, the founder of Carter G. Woodson School of Challenge, said, “Our African ancestors prayed for us to have a day like this. That’s why we have to honor ourselves. We shouldn’t wait for others to do that.”

After receiving her award, Hopkins, who currently serves as the director of Carter G. Woodson, said, “The African-American community cannot let racism and hate stop our fight for equal rights.”

Keynote speaker Dr. Nkrumah D. Lewis discussed a number of social issues including racism, mass incarceration, global hunger, poverty and others. Lewis currently serves on the Institutional Research Boards at UNC Greensboro and Wake Forest University.

During his speech, Lewis said that the African-American community must work together to overcome all social injustices they face every day. Lewis used a number of examples and people from history who came together when times were tough.

Lewis said events like slavery, the Civil Rights Movements and more recently, the deaths of Trayvon Martin and Sandra Bland, have all helped him become who he is today.

“I’ve come here today to tell you all these incidents have informed who I am,” he continued. “I have the blood in me of the first slave who decided to run.”

Following Lewis’ speech, citizens were allowed to express their views on umoja as well. Sis Valid of Winston-Salem spoke to the countless number of youth who were in attendance. She said although it is important to know where you come from, it is equally important to have conversations on how to build for the future.

“This whole illusion that we’re under makes me sick,” she said. White supremacy, the police brutality, just everything that we have experienced, we have to actively fight against that.”

For more information on the local Kwanzaa events and a list of guest speakers, visit


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