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FALLS FAITH-BASED COLLABORATION AIMS TO MADE KWANZAA A COMMUNITY AFFAIR

A group in the city's North End is promoting Kwanzaa and the practice of the holiday's principles throughout the year.

The Niagara Falls Faith-Based Collaboration is sponsoring a communitywide celebration from next Sunday through Jan. 1 to encourage unity in the community.

"In the past, we've all done our own individual things for Kwanzaa," said Glenda Glover, chairwoman of the organization's cultural committee. "But the important thing this year is that it's collaborative within the community, which makes it more interesting, informative and educational."

Denise Easterling, the group's coordinator, says that, in light of the meaning of Kwanzaa, this effort is a natural move.

"Doing this as a community is almost a mandate of Kwanzaa, because Kwanzaa is an inclusive celebration," said Easterling, who has attended the Kwanzaa celebration in Buffalo for more than 20 years. "It's a coming together of people. Of course, you can observe it with your family, but it's best observed with groups of people."

Kwanzaa, which means first fruits of the harvest, was created in 1966 by author and professor Maulana Ron Karenga. It centers around Nguzo Saba, the seven principles of black culture, one for each day of the weeklong celebration.

A candle is lighted each evening, and the principle for the day is observed.

"Kwanzaa includes all people. It's nonpolitical, nonreligious; and it's not about people per se," Glover said.

Next Sunday, the first night of Kwanzaa, Umoja -- or unity -- will be celebrated from 6 to 8 p.m. in St. John's African Methodist Episcopal Church at 917 Garden Ave., an Underground Railroad site. The program will feature a one-woman show about the Underground Railroad performed by Colia Clark.

A daylong celebration Dec. 27 in Niagara Falls Convention and Civic Center will include craft making, an African dance workshop, African drummers and storytellers, an African fashion show and African food tastings, as well as Afro-centric jewelry, clothing and artifacts. The day's festivities will conclude with a parade and formal community Kwanzaa ceremony centered around the second principle, Kujichagalia, or self-determination.

"We're planning to have different families from the community in the parade," Glover said. "We're going to have flags for them and have them march into the Convention Center. It's a way to showcase our families."

The third principle of Ujima -- collective work and responsibility -- will be celebrated from 3 to 8 p.m. Dec. 28 in the Family Resource Building at 3001 Ninth St. The highlight of the day will be a 3 p.m. book signing by Kwanzaa founder Karenga.

"We're fortunate in having the father of Kwanzaa here in Niagara Falls," Easterling said. "In the early '90s, we had our first Kwanzaa at the community center, and I thought it would take at least 20 years before we could have Maulana Karenga here. But, fortunately, we are able to have him here, and that enables us to inspire people."

The principle of Ujamaa, or cooperative economics, will be the focus from 6 to 8 p.m. Dec. 29 in Victory Family Christian Center, 1601 Cleveland Ave. It will feature a presentation by the Faith-Based Collaborative.

Two principles, Nia, or purpose, and Kuumba, or creativity, will be celebrated through youth drama and arts contests from 6 to 8 p.m. Dec. 30 in the Niagara Community Center, 15th Street and Center Avenue.

Imani, or faith, the seventh principle of Kwanzaa, will be observed Dec. 31 with family groups celebrating together at home or in church.

The communitywide Kwanzaa celebration is the first step in the cooperative's plan for community revitalization and economic development. The plan, which will remain under wraps until the first day of Kwanzaa, is designed to create jobs, according tothe Niagara Falls Faith-Based Collaboration.

For more informationcall 285-1881.

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