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Celebrating African Culture with Kwanzaa

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Like in many societies, people celebrate traditions and holidays to recognize their culture and create unity. 

Kwanzaa (from Dec. 26 to Jan. 1) was created in 1966 as a way for Black people to acknowledge the best of what it means to be African and human in the fullest sense. Kwanzaa gets its name from the Swahili phrase, “matunda ya kwanza” and is rooted in first-fruit celebrations, which are found in African cultures both in ancient and modern times. The 2022 theme is “Kwanzaa, Culture and the Practice of Freedom: A Message and Model For Our Times.” Kwanzaa was not created as an alternative to religious beliefs or the observance of religious holidays, but it is celebrated by more than 30 million people of African descent worldwide.

The Seven Principles (Nguzo Saba)

Kwanzaa has seven basic symbols and values that draw on the Swahili language, one of Africa’s most widely spoken languages. The central belief is that these values are universal truths and a universal way of life. These principles, also known as Nguzo Saba, are:

  • Day 1 Umoja (Unity): Unity of the family, community, nation, and race
  • Day 2 Kujichagulia (Self-Determination): Being responsible for your conduct and behavior
  • Day 3 Ujima (Collective work and responsibility): Working to help one another and the community
  • Day 4 Ujamaa (Cooperative economics): Working to build shops and businesses. Many who celebrate Kwanzaa will actively shop from Black businesses.
  • Day 5 Nia (Purpose): Remembering and restoring African and African American cultures, customs, and history
  • Day 6 Kuumba (Creativity): To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it
  • Day 7 Imani (Faith): Believing in people, families, leaders, teachers, and the righteousness of the African American struggle.

Candle Lighting

Each day, a candle is lit to highlight that day’s principle and bring meaning into the principles with various activities, such as reciting the sayings, reciting original poetry by Black authors, or sharing a meal of African-inspired foods. 

Decorations 

The table is decorated with the symbols of Kwanzaa, such as the Kinara (Candle Holder), Mkeka (Mat), Muhindi (corn to represent the children), Mazao (fruit to represent the harvest), and Zawadi (gifts). 

One might also see the colors of the Pan-African flag, red (the struggle), black (the people), and green (the future), represented throughout the space and in the clothing worn by participants. These colors were first proclaimed to be the colors for all people of the African diaspora by Marcus Garvey, a Jamaican-born Black nationalist and leader of the Pan-Africanism movement, which sought to unify and connect people of African descent worldwide.

Why Celebrate Kwanzaa

Kwanzaa is a chance for families and communities to come together to share a feast, honor their ancestors, and celebrate African and African American culture. The principles are great learning lessons for children based on values instead of consumerism. 

On Dec. 26 at 7 pm, Melaneyes Media will host an online event to help people celebrate Kwanzaa. Through Zoom, the community is invited to honor the first day of Kwanzaa as a family and community. Event organizers will light the candle, discuss Unity, tell stories, and play games. The event is hosted by Melaneyes Media’s Aundar Ma’t and Born Logic Allah. To learn more, visit (MelaneyesMedia.com/Kwanzaa).

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Why Africa Matters

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By Caleb Alexander

No matter how often I attempt to explain this, there will be those who still won’t get it. America and the legacy of the Trans-Atlantic Slave trade have done a number on them. Some refuse to identify with or have any affiliation with the land from which their ancestors were taken. You know, the ones Harriett would have left behind. But for the rest of us, I want to bring you along and explain why Africa matters, why unity within the diaspora matters; I’m going to explain what power is.

First, I have to talk about America for you to understand. We’ve all heard the maxim that power concedes nothing without a demand. The truth is power concedes nothing, even with a demand. Power yields only to power. And in America, power means money. This country was founded by men who would rather overthrow their God-ordained sovereignty than pay more taxes. Think about that. At the time of this nation’s founding, it was believed that God-ordained Kings had a divine right to rule over their subjects. The men who founded this country would rather disobey God than pay a little more money.  

America was never a democratic experiment; it was an economic one. This was about Adam Smith and The Wealth of Nations. This was about a system where wealthy landowners would choose electors from amongst themselves who would meet in a collegium and choose an executive to preside over the nation’s affairs. It was a modernized Magna Charter. So don’t be fooled into thinking this was some great democratic vision. It was an economic system that got way out of hand and turned into an economic Frankenstein monster with highly concentrated wealth at the top and crumbs at the bottom. America is about money, and the monied class rules it. And now to Africa.

I will focus on The Democratic Republic of the Congo, also known as the DRC. As it stands, the DRC controls more than 50% of the world’s hard lithium reserves and nearly 70% of the world’s cobalt reserves, and currently, 75% of the world’s cobalt supply is sourced from this one nation. Cobalt and lithium are the two key components in making lithium-ion batteries, which supply power to your cell phones, laptops, and, more importantly, your electric vehicles.

The target date for every car manufacturer to switch to producing only electric vehicles is 2030. The only new car you can purchase in seven years will be an electric one. Each year, the materials to make the batteries for those millions of electric vehicles come from Africa.

I have a cousin in Virginia who is an electrical engineer, and I have another cousin who is a geologist and a petroleum engineer. I took a trip to Big Stone Gap, West Virginia, years ago to write a book on the Jones brothers, both prominent NFL players who, at the time, were both starters on major NFL teams. I went to interview their parents, who were coal miners, and what I saw was an entire community, an entire region of Black folks in the mining industry. Universities in this country graduate roughly 4,000 Black engineers each year, and nearly half a million Black engineers are working in their various disciplines. Why does Africa have to reach out to China for engineering?

We can form consortiums in the country. We have the talent. Like my cousins, we have accountants, engineers, geologists, and scientists. Every person from Africa I have talked with about business has repeatedly said, “We would rather do business with you, our people. We don’t understand why you are not doing business in Africa.” Our people want to do business with us. They understand China is exploiting them, but they need engineers. They have the miners, they just need the engineers, and we have them and graduate 4,000 more each year. We must come together, for our sake and theirs. Now let’s talk about what power looks like. Real power.

The Democratic Republic of Congo has been called the Saudi Arabia of the electric vehicle era. That’s a powerful declaration. Just as Saudi Arabia supplied the world with oil during the internal combustion engine age, Africa will now supply the world with the materials it needs to power this new generation of clean electric vehicles. The world needs Africa, and Africa needs its brothers and sisters in the diaspora to supply her with engineers. Let’s say we organize and come together, and this new company we form gets exploration and mining contracts. And now you have the children of Africa working together, supplying the world with this critical resource. Suddenly, America does what America always does and guns down one of our children. What power looks like is Black people stopping the production of cobalt and lithium. 

Without EV batteries, car production stops, which creates a backlog. That means the chip manufacturers stop production. The steel industry that supplies the automotive industry stops. And so do the aluminum, rubber, tire, petrochemical, and glass industries. Everything grinds to a halt. Power for us is shutting down the global economy. Now that’s power!  

Back to my earlier statement, America is about money, and wealthy corporations like Microsoft, Google, General Motors, Ford, Apple, Chrysler, Toyota, Hyundai, Boeing, BMW, Mercedes, Dell, HP, and all the rest, are not going to stand for a global shutdown. They will be calling their presidents, prime ministers, chancellors, and the White House, along with the Senators and Governors they own. I guarantee whoever needs to be indicted, arrested, fired, or prosecuted, will be taken care of immediately. Again, that’s power. 

And that power is within our grasp if we choose to come together and exercise it. This is why Africa is important. This is why coming together is important. It stops all of us from being mistreated and exploited. Our unity would be transformative. People continue to talk about the next century being the Chinese century. But if we came together, this next century would undoubtedly be the African and (African-American) century. 

Why Africa Matters

No matter how often I attempt to explain this, there will be those who still won’t get it. America and the legacy of the Trans-Atlantic Slave trade have done a number on them. Some refuse to identify with or have any affiliation with the land from which their ancestors were taken. You know, the ones Harriett would have left behind. But for the rest of us, I want to bring you along and explain why Africa matters, why unity within the diaspora matters; I’m going to explain what power is.

First, I have to talk about America for you to understand. We’ve all heard the maxim that power concedes nothing without a demand. The truth is power concedes nothing, even with a demand. Power yields only to power. And in America, power means money. This country was founded by men who would rather overthrow their God-ordained sovereignty than pay more taxes. Think about that. At the time of this nation’s founding, it was believed that God-ordained Kings had a divine right to rule over their subjects. The men who founded this country would rather disobey God than pay a little more money.  

America was never a democratic experiment; it was an economic one. This was about Adam Smith and The Wealth of Nations. This was about a system where wealthy landowners would choose electors from amongst themselves who would meet in a collegium and choose an executive to preside over the nation’s affairs. It was a modernized Magna Charter. So don’t be fooled into thinking this was some great democratic vision. It was an economic system that got way out of hand and turned into an economic Frankenstein monster with highly concentrated wealth at the top and crumbs at the bottom. America is about money, and the monied class rules it. And now to Africa.

I will focus on The Democratic Republic of the Congo, also known as the DRC. As it stands, the DRC controls more than 50% of the world’s hard lithium reserves and nearly 70% of the world’s cobalt reserves, and currently, 75% of the world’s cobalt supply is sourced from this one nation. Cobalt and lithium are the two key components in making lithium-ion batteries, which supply power to your cell phones, laptops, and, more importantly, your electric vehicles.

The target date for every car manufacturer to switch to producing only electric vehicles is 2030. The only new car you can purchase in seven years will be an electric one. Each year, the materials to make the batteries for those millions of electric vehicles come from Africa.

I have a cousin in Virginia who is an electrical engineer, and I have another cousin who is a geologist and a petroleum engineer. I took a trip to Big Stone Gap, West Virginia, years ago to write a book on the Jones brothers, both prominent NFL players who, at the time, were both starters on major NFL teams. I went to interview their parents, who were coal miners, and what I saw was an entire community, an entire region of Black folks in the mining industry. Universities in this country graduate roughly 4,000 Black engineers each year, and nearly half a million Black engineers are working in their various disciplines. Why does Africa have to reach out to China for engineering?

We can form consortiums in the country. We have the talent. Like my cousins, we have accountants, engineers, geologists, and scientists. Every person from Africa I have talked with about business has repeatedly said, “We would rather do business with you, our people. We don’t understand why you are not doing business in Africa.” Our people want to do business with us. They understand China is exploiting them, but they need engineers. They have the miners, they just need the engineers, and we have them and graduate 4,000 more each year. We must come together, for our sake and theirs. Now let’s talk about what power looks like. Real power.

The Democratic Republic of Congo has been called the Saudi Arabia of the electric vehicle era. That’s a powerful declaration. Just as Saudi Arabia supplied the world with oil during the internal combustion engine age, Africa will now supply the world with the materials it needs to power this new generation of clean electric vehicles. The world needs Africa, and Africa needs its brothers and sisters in the diaspora to supply her with engineers. Let’s say we organize and come together, and this new company we form gets exploration and mining contracts. And now you have the children of Africa working together, supplying the world with this critical resource. Suddenly, America does what America always does and guns down one of our children. What power looks like is Black people stopping the production of cobalt and lithium. 

Without EV batteries, car production stops, which creates a backlog. That means the chip manufacturers stop production. The steel industry that supplies the automotive industry stops. And so do the aluminum, rubber, tire, petrochemical, and glass industries. Everything grinds to a halt. Power for us is shutting down the global economy. Now that’s power!  

Back to my earlier statement, America is about money, and wealthy corporations like Microsoft, Google, General Motors, Ford, Apple, Chrysler, Toyota, Hyundai, Boeing, BMW, Mercedes, Dell, HP, and all the rest, are not going to stand for a global shutdown. They will be calling their presidents, prime ministers, chancellors, and the White House, along with the Senators and Governors they own. I guarantee whoever needs to be indicted, arrested, fired, or prosecuted, will be taken care of immediately. Again, that’s power. 

And that power is within our grasp if we choose to come together and exercise it. This is why Africa is important. This is why coming together is important. It stops all of us from being mistreated and exploited. Our unity would be transformative. People continue to talk about the next century being the Chinese century. But if we came together, this next century would undoubtedly be the African and (African-American) century. 

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Africa

Artpace: Curator Talk

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Join Artpace Thursday, Dec. 15 at 6 pm for a curator talk with Missla Libsekal, who will share her curatorial practice, followed by a Q&A. Doors open at 5:30 pm, and the free talk will begin at 6 pm. 

Libsekal is Artpace’s fall 2023 International Artist in Residency Guest Curator and is based in Vancouver, Canada.

Her practice focuses on interdisciplinary research and artistic practice from a Pan-African perspective. She says on her website that a watershed moment in her journey towards art and practice was a visit to her ancestral home of Asmara, Eritrea (a country in the Horn of Africa), in 2004. 

She’s also the founder of Another Africa, a digital platform that operated from 2010 – 2016, and featured writing about African and Afro-Diasporic experiences and imaginaries. Her writings have been published in The Africa Report, The Guardian, Art Africa, SAVVY art journal, and more. 

In 2017, Libsekal curated the second edition of the Art x Lagos, Nigeria’s first international art fair. In an interview with Nataal magazine, she described her approach to the curated projects stating, “I was thinking about the rupture of histories within the African context and how we address them—that felt critical to use as a foundation. I also wanted to think about materiality and expand on how contemporary art is understood and defined.”

Artpace San Antonio is a nonprofit residency program that supports Texas, national, and international artists in creating new art. As a catalyst for artistic expression, it engages local communities with global art practices and experiences. To learn more about the event and get tickets, visit (Artpace.org).

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African Children’s Choir Visiting Nearby Churches in 2023

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International nonprofit organization Music for Life announces the 2023 U.S. African Children’s Choir Tour. The tour will include 50+ stops across the country, sure to melt the hearts of audiences with their performance of popular children’s music, traditional spiritual songs and African cultural pieces.

On March 3, the choir will visit Holy Ghost Lutheran Church at 7 pm in Fredericksburg and on March 5, the group will be at Redemptive Grace Ministries at 10: 30 am in New Braunfels.

The 2023 tour is much more than a concert. The African Children’s Choir is composed of African children, aged 10 to 12 years old, all who come from vulnerable backgrounds and have faced hardship and lack of education. However, they represent the potential of the African child to become leaders for a better future.

“The African Children’s Choir proves just how powerful music can be,” says Tina Sipp, Choir Manager for the African Children’s Choir. “These concerts provide hope and encouragement, not just to our audiences, but to the children whose lives are forever changed by their experiences with the Choir.”

The 2023 tour will kick off on Sunday, January 15, 2023, in Wake Forest, North Carolina, and will make stops in 16 different states before concluding on Wednesday, May 10, 2023, in Pinehurst, NC. For a full list of tour stops, visit https://africanchildrenschoir.com/tour-dates/.

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