When Christmas comes and goes, Cleveland’s holiday season keeps on going with Kwanzaa.
We asked Clevelanders Steven E. Boyd, President of A Basic Plateau Production Co. and founder of the Hue People Vocal Ensemble, and Paul and Marquita Hill of the Greater Cleveland Kwanzaa Alliance what it’s like to celebrate Kwanzaa in Cleveland.
A businessman and an artist, Steven E. Boyd was born in Kansas City, but has lived in Cleveland since 1983.
“Cleveland has afforded my family a world class commercial, educational, cosmopolitan, multicultural, progressive and artistic environment in which to raise children, develop business, socially engage and thrive," he said.
As President of A Basic Plateau, he offers insights from decades of experience consulting on music, graphic design, technology and advertising. The Hue People Vocal Ensemble has a mission to enlighten, uplift and entertain, using elements from the rich musical legacy of African Americans, including jazz, neo-soul, R&B, reggae, spiritual, folk music and freedom songs.
Paul and Marquita Hill have lived in Cleveland together for over 50 years, along with many of their children and grandchildren. They love Cleveland because of their family legacy here (including Paul Hill, Sr. and Moses Hill), as well as sunsets on Lake Erie, walking the Metroparks, visiting museums, attending annual events like Parade the Circle and going to concerts at the Beachland Ballroom in the Waterloo Arts District for a variety of shows (especially jazz, R&B, soul and rock).
The Hills are Co-Founders of the National Rites of Passage Institute and Greater Cleveland Kwanzaa Alliance, which is a cultural resource center dedicated to perpetuating the Nguzo Saba (seven principles of Kwanzaa) through constant practice.
What is Kwanzaa?
Cuyahoga County Poet Laureate Honey Bell-Bey and Family, Image © Greater Cleveland Kwanzaa Alliance
S. BOYD: The Kwanzaa Ceremony and Celebration honors African heritage in African American culture, culminating in a feast and gift-giving and celebrated Dec. 26 to Jan. 1. Kwanzaa has seven core principles (Nguzo Saba): Umoja (Unity), Kujichagulia (Self-Determination), Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility), Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics), Nia (Purpose), Kuumba (Creativity) and Imani (Faith). Our family has celebrated Kwanzaa since 1980.
What are the origins of Kwanzaa?
GCKA: Kwanzaa was created out of the philosophy of Kawaida, which is a cultural philosophy that argues that the key challenge of Black people’s life is the challenge of culture, and what descendants of Africans in America must do is discover and bring forth the best of their culture, both ancient and current and use it as a foundation to bring forth into being models of human excellence and possibilities to enrich and expand our lives. Kwanzaa was created in the midst of our struggles for liberation during the 1960’s and was part of Dr. Maulana Karenga’s and the US organization's efforts to create, recreate and circulate African culture as an aid to building community, enriching Black consciousness, and reaffirming the value of cultural grounding for life and struggle.
Where can people go to experience Kwanzaa in Cleveland and what can they expect?
Image © Greater Cleveland Kwanzaa Alliance
This year, the Cleveland Histoy Center is hosting a Kwanzaa Celebration on December 31 from 12 to 3 pm. This free program will include crafts, music, and refreshments. Attendees of all ages are encouraged to wear African-inspired attire as apart of the celebration.
Where can people learn more about Kwanzaa in Cleveland?
GCKA: The first community Kwanzaa within the greater Cleveland area took place in 1982; each day of Kwanzaa was hosted by seven neighborhood-based organizations and institution throughout greater Cleveland. In 1983, The Greater Cleveland Kwanzaa Alliance was founded by Paul and Marquita Hill and Doris Willis, who are all still living in the area.
The Greater Cleveland Kwanzaa Alliance over the years has evolved from sponsoring seven days of Kwanzaa, to only sponsoring the first day of Kwanzaa, and then to sponsoring no days and urging the practice of Kwanzaa within the home among families while supporting the Kwanzaa efforts of community organizations and individuals. Such support has included publishing an annual schedule of public Kwanzaa events, the creation of a Greater Cleveland Kwanzaa Alliance Facebook page and implementing Kwanzaa 2020 through social media—pre-recorded and featured as a publicly accessible Youtube video.