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This year’s Kwanzaa celebrations took many forms in Brooklyn communities. These celebrations included the Kwanzaa Classic, a three-day tournament with over 100 kids from Brownsville, East New York, Crown Heights and Bedford-Stuyvesant participating in a basketball tournament. Prior to each game the youth were participating in a cultural forum regarding Black History and reflecting on the relevance of the Kwanzaa principles. The youth were quizzed on their knowledge of basketball greats like Bill Russell, Oscar Robinson and Wilt Chamberlain. Despite their keen interest in basketball, they did not do well on the quiz. The tournament, now in its second year, was sponsored by the Carter G. Woodson Cultural Literacy Project and the Omega Psi Phi fraternity. This was a great collaboration, as Dr. Carter G. Woodson was a member of Omega Psi Phi and we intend to continue this event in the future.
On December 26th, the Kwanzaa Collective hosted their annual event at Boys & Girls High School. Percussionist Neil Clarke received an award at this event, finally giving him the recognition that he deserves as a premier African American percussionist. Mr. Clarke, a Bed-Stuy resident, currently performs with Randy Weston. Dr. Maulana Karenga (the founder of Kwanzaa) was at Boys & Girls on December 27, where we reflected on the principle Kujichagulia. This event was sponsored by the New York Chapter of NAKO under the leadership of Dr. Segun Shabaka. Dr. Karenga again challenged us to embrace the best of ourselves and our African brilliance. Next year is the Fortieth Anniversary celebration of Kwanzaa. We must again commit to holding steadfast to the Nguzu Saba (7 Principles) and make this a truly great year in developing African cultural consciousness. This work must begin January 2.
During Kwanzaa, we must reflect on our community’s strengths and weaknesses. In the past few weeks a few incidents have brought to light the problem of violence. In response, P.S. 21 hosted its Peace Rally on December 20, where students and parents took to the streets and made an impassioned plea to “Stop the Violence.” Students made posters which they hung up on the park’s fence. They performed a dramatic antiviolence skit, songs and we were treated to a performance by their step team. There were speeches in support of the call for peace by representatives from the Nation of Islam and 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement. Also in attendance were Mr. Holder, principal of Boys and Girls High School, and members of his staff. All present were impressed with the rally and the expression of peace from our children. Our youth are once again showing us the way.
Security officer Vivian A. Samuels-Benjamin’s death after an altercation with a female student is a tragedy. While I am not aware of all the particulars, I know that it should not have happened. Our community has to address the issue of violence and respect, or the lack of respect for elders. The incidents at both I.S. 390 and P.S. 21 all took place during the holiday season during which we should be embracing a Kwanzaa value system. The Woodson Project intends to host a youth rally during Dr. King’s Weekend that will incorporate a cultural agenda to provide viable alternatives to violence in our communities and emphasize the significance of respect. We intend to use Dr. King’s holiday as a period of mobilization for launching the movement to teach black history and culture to our youth.
Congratulations to Nayaba Arende, who was recently named the Editor in Chief of the Amsterdam News. Naya is an award-winning journalist formerly with the Daily Challenge. This is truly great news for us in the activist community and I now look forward to reading the Amsterdam News every Thursday.

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