This first post-COVID major holiday season is proving to be the elixir that delights peoples’ souls! There is no better indicator of this than the Anacostia Coordinating Council’s (ACC) 9th Annual Multi-Cultural Holiday Celebration held November 30th at the Anacostia Playhouse, the resident, professional theatre of Ward 8 in Southeast DC.
The Playhouse, under the stalwart leadership of Ward 8 resident, Adele Robey, has provided this gift of a professional performance venue and brought a high level of entertainment not commonly experienced in this part of our city. The space was the site of a spirited children’s toy and gift drive built around a program showcasing the origins and tenets of Christmas, Hanukkah, Islam and Kwanzaa. The presentations were not only informational, but engaging and inspirational as well. The evening was masterfully hosted by Monica Ray, Vice-Chair of the ACC Board of Directors.
The outstanding feature of the evening was the inclusion of children in the festivities. Seven youngsters from the age of 4 to 15 read the explanation of the seven principles. This created an unforgettable memory for them and their families and was so indicative of the potential our young people have if they are duly encouraged and nourished by the support of community. Of particular note was the mention that four-year-old Nehemiah (“Nemo”) Foo was the impetus for his family’s donation of over 50 toys. He also presented one of the seven principles. The evening included two stellar vocal performances. Troy Donte Prestwood (President of the Ward 8 Democrats) rocked the house with a soulful rendition of the yuletide favorite, “Christmas is the Happiest Time of the Year.” J’TA Freeman, a beguiling and energetic young songstress from Ward 7, regaled the crowd with a delicate, somber version of the gospel classic, “Mary Didn’t You Know?” and then thoroughly engaged the audience with Stevie Wonder’s, “Sir Duke”. Toys can be delivered to the 7th Police District Station @ 2355 Alabama Ave SE (24 hrs a day) Tel # 202-698-1500. It is its 52nd year of sponsoring the toys and gifts drive.
Acknowledgements were made of the outstanding achievements ACC has made in its fundraising efforts in the last year and the unbelievable success (against all odds) of the Boat Ride. Future ventures were mentioned as well as ACC’s expansion with other partnerships. The event was beautifully catered by Lamont Mitchell, ACC Board Chair and the capacity crowd ate, drank and made merry with one another in the true spirit of a multi-cultural hoedown.
What I and I am sure many others in attendance came to realize was that at the end of the presentations it seemed that they had much more in common than different between them. The evening was an excellent example of what can happen when communities come together and what better place to witness this than East of the River in Washington, DC.
A Multi-Cultural Celebration
The evening began with a synopsis of the eight-day Jewish holiday of Hanukah (“festival of lights”). Each day of Hanukah is represented on a menorah (an oil-flamed lamp) that is lit one day at a time. The origin of this ritual stems from an earlier celebration when there was only enough oil for one night but through faith and prayer, there was enough oil to complete the eight-day ritual (a miracle). The celebration includes dancing and singing, special foods and prayers.
Islam means to achieve peace – peace with God, peace within oneself and peace with the creations of God – through wholly submitting to his omnipotence. Over 2000 years ago a prophet expressed the idea of just one God and was looked upon with scorn and run out of the city by the elders. But it is on this basic principle that Islam is structured with the one God being Allah . His followers are called Muslims. The basis of belief is that one does not go to sleep if one knows his neighbor is hungry. The celebrations of Islam are all focused on community and universal responsibility for one’s fellow man.
Christianity is based on the belief that Jesus Christ is the “only begotten son of God.” The fundamentals of this belief are based on the Ten Commandments, which God gave to the prophet Moses to present to the Hebrews as the “mosaic of life.” Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus and the beginning of his mission to bring mankind to God the Father. A lot of attention is paid to the “12 days of Christmas,” where time is spent with family, friends and neighbors, the exchanging of gifts, singing carols and sharing a special meal. Followers are called Christians and they make up several denominations.
Kwanzaa is an annual celebration of African American culture that is held from Dec. 26 to Jan. 1 It was founded by Prof. Maulana Karenga in 1966 based on African harvest festival traditions from various parts of Africa. It has seven basic principles (Nuguzo Saba): Umoja (Unity), Kujichagulia (Self-Determination), Ujimaa (Collective Work and Responsibility), Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics), Nia (Purpose), Kuumba (Creativity) and Imani (Faith). The celebratory symbols of Kwanzaa include a mat (mkeke) on which other symbols are placed: the kinara (candle holder for seven candles), mishumaa sava (seven candles), mazao (various crops, fruits and vegetables), mahindi (corn) to represent the children celebrating and a kikombe cha umoja (unity cup) for commemorating and giving thanks to African ancestors. The symbols also include the Pan African flag. The one difference about Kwanzaa is that it is totally non-denominational.