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  • Writer's picture The Vindicator

Habari Gani: Celebrating Kwanzaa and the Efforts of the Black Studies Program

​The Howard A. Mims African American Cultural Center presents the Annual Kuumba Arts Festival December 9, 2017. Directed by Black Studies Program coordinator, Prester Pickett, M.F.A, the Kuumba Arts Festival is hosted in collaboration with several different Black student organizations. This year’s festival honors national celebrities from Cleveland such as Halle Berry, Steve Harvey, and Dorothy Dandridge to name a few. The event will be taking place in the Main Classroom Auditorium at 7 p.m., with reception beginning at 6p.m. in Main Classroom 135. The Kuumba Festival is free and open to the public. To understand the rich value of the festival, I sat down with Black Studies major, Erica Young, as she explained its significance and the dynamics of one of the Black student organizations, the Sankofa Society.

The Sankofa Society, also known as the Black Studies Elites, is a student organization under the Black Studies Program. The organization not only promotes educational aspects of the Black Studies Program but, also incorporates Nguzo Saba, the seven principles of Kwanzaa. Kwanzaa is an African American celebration occurring December 26th through January 1st. Created by psychologist Malayan Karenga in 1966 to uplift the Black community, Kwanzaa embraces African Heritage through its principles Umoja, Kujichagulia, Ujima, Ujamaa, Nia, Kuumba, and Imani. Each principle is represented by West African Adinkra symbols that are matched to their Swahili word or principle.


Pictured above: Rikaiah Armstrong, Morgan Thompson, Ashante Pryor, Erica Young, Mary Porter

Young, who is also the president of the Sankofa Society vividly explained the Sankofa meaning and the Kuumba Arts Festivals’ impact on the Cleveland State society. Sankofa, meaning “go back and fetch it” is the symbol of the wisdom of learning from the past to build for the future. “With the Sankofa symbol, there is the meaning that says that there is nothing wrong with going back to get what you lost so that you can move forward,” Young said. I felt ecstatic as Young explained this concept with its meaning resonant to my life.

“This year we want to share and introduce Black culture to the community in a very creative way. We want to honor Cleveland legends while providing food, entertainment and education,” explained Young. The Black student organizations plan on doing impersonations and hosting a game of Family Feud. Young will sing “Give Me One Reason” as a tribute to Tracy Chapman, Cleveland legend. “Mr. Pickett is so creative when thinking of these events. I’m always wondering how he comes up with these things,” adds Young.


Pictured above: Erica Young, Mary Porter, Ashante Pryor, Morgan Thompson, and Rikaiah Armstrong

“With Kwanzaa you can present your education in any format that you feel, and we are trying to celebrate with Cleveland State as well as the Cleveland community. We are incorporating our heritage and including our community,” Young said. She also highlighted that celebrations of Kwanzaa are not to be commercialized and are to be focused on unity and teaching.

Several students of the Sankofa Society are taking an Student Government Association funded trip to Washington D.C. to visit the African American History Museum. Young, who graduates this December, is excited and can’t wait to come back to share her experience with other students.

“That's a part of the collaboration that the Howard A. Mims Cultural Center has with the Black Studies Program. For instance, I've recently gone to Ghana. I came back to share what I had learned through events such as the Bridges to Africa Celebration” explains Young.

With direction from Thomas Bynum, Ph.D, Black Studies Program Director, the program has a calendar full of events in Black studies, community outreach, and education in heritage. These events include Sista to Sista Power Hour, Speak Up Poetry Jam, Hip Hop Workshops and more. For more information please contact the Black Studies Program at 216-687-3655 or

Habari Gani: What's the news? (Swahili)

Seven Principles of Kwanzaa

Umoja (Unity): To strive for and to maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and race.

Kujichagulia (Self-Determination): To define and name ourselves, as well as to create and speak for ourselves.

Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility): To build and maintain our community together and make our brothers' and sisters' problems our problems and to solve them together.

Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics): To build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses and to profit from them together.

Nia (Purpose): To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.

Kuumba (Creativity): To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.

Imani (Faith): To believe with all our hearts in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders, and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.



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