Queen Ann Nzinga Center: Celebrating Kwanzaa through song and dance

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Brother Alvin Carter Jr., center, leads the Queen Ann Nzinga Center’s Kwanzaa celebration at Plainville High School last Saturday. Crowds packed the auditorium for a night filled with song and dance, bringing to life the seven principles of Kwanzaa. (Photo by Janelle Morelli)

TAYLOR MURCHISON-GALLAGHER

STAFF WRITER

The Queen Ann Nzinga Center, a nonprofit organization out of New Britain, hosted the 30th annual Kwanzaa celebration at Plainville High School on Saturday, Dec. 28, where song and dance helped illuminate the seven principles of Kwanzaa.

QANC officials explained that Kwanzaa is an African-American cultural holiday that is celebrated over seven days, from Thursday, Dec. 26 to Wednesday, Jan. 1.

Each day is dedicated to one of the seven principles. The first is dedicated to Umoja, meaning unity; the second day focuses on Kujichagulia, or self-determination; Ujima is the focus of the third day, the focus of collective work and responsibility; next the focus turns to Ujamaa, cooperative economics; the fifth day is dedicated to Nia, meaning purpose; the sixth day focuses on Kuumba, or creativity; and the final day is dedicated to Imani, meaning faith.

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The program was lead by Brother Alvin Carter Jr., and Reverend Lee Brown III of Grace Church of New Britain. Rev. Brown led the opening prayer which called upon the audience to pay respect to their ancestors who have paved the path before them.

Carter explained that it is tradition to pay respect to the ancestors by pouring water as it is the essence of life. The water is either poured directly onto the earth or into a potted plant, and as the water is poured they call out the names of their ancestors.

“Our fathers and mothers came here, they lived, loved, struggled, and built it, and in this place their love and their labor rose like the sun and it gave strength and meaning to the day,” said Carter. “So for those who have given so much, we give in return, and in this same place we will sow our seeds and build and move in unity and in strength, and we will continue our struggle for liberty and a higher level of human life.”

To help bring the principles to life the group performed the play “QANC High School,” written by Rebecca Trapp. The play opens with two groups – a high school basketball team, and several young women auditioning for their school’s dance team.

Trapp explained that “QANC High School” depicts how the values of Kwanzaa can help the younger generation overcome negativity and obstacles.

As both groups learned about the seven principles they were able to put those ideas into action – the basketball team became more cooperative and was able to break their losing streak, and the young women were able to secure their spots on the dance team.

Leal Marie Williams, co-creater and member of Island Reflections Dance Theater Company performs “D Journey (Make It),” a piece choreographed for her by Stephen Hankey. (Photo by Janelle Morelli)

“The thing I love most about this celebration is that even though this show may be fiction the message is very real,” the playwright explained. “I see the values of Kwanzaa at work every day in our Queen Ann Nzinga Center community. I encourage everyone to take the time to contemplate how unity, self-determination, collective work, cooperative economics, creativity, purpose, and faith can make a difference in our daily lives.”

The Queen Ann Nzinga Center will be hosting an open house event on Saturday, Jan. 18, from 1 to 4 p.m., at the Trinity-on-Main performing arts center at 19 Chestnut St., New Britain. The program is open to people, ages 5 to 17, and Saturday programs run from September to May.

Those who are interested in learning more about the center are encouraged to visit their website, qanc.org, or to contact executive director Dayna Snell by email, qancinc@gmail.com, or by telephone, (860) 805-6169.

To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Taylor Murchison-Gallagher, email her at TMurchison@PlainvilleObserver.com.