From Dec. 26 through Jan. 1 each year, black communities across the country celebrate Kwanzaa. In Austin, events took place last week, along with pre-Kwanzaa celebrations the week before.

2007 marked the 13th year Malcolm X College, 1900 W. Van Buren, has hosted its week-long Kwanzaa celebration. This year’s theme was “Tribute to Community Service.”

MXC hosts events and activities each of the seven days of observance. The school’s first-floor is traditionally filled with dozens of vendors selling such goods as art, sculptures, African-based hygiene and beauty products, and music.

Each day also includes assemblies featuring dance groups, drummers, spoken word poetry, singing and the school’s annual fashion show.

The school also recognizes people in the community on each day with its Cultural Excellence Award. On Saturday, Dec. 29, the fourth day of Kwanzaa celebrating the principle of Ujamaa, or cooperative economics, the college honored community media.

MXC president Zerrie Campbell presented awards to the following honorees: WVON Radio; Mary Denson, owner and publisher of Windy City Word newspaper; Bernard Williams, the school’s former media director; William Stewart, the school’s graphic and reproduction coordinator; and Rolling Out Magazine.

Terry Dean, news editor for the Austin Weekly News, also received the award this year.

President Campbell talked about the importance of community media and making a “good first impression” as an institution with the local press when it comes to getting positive stories out to the community.

Saturday’s ceremony also included dance, drum and a spoken word poetry performance.

Fred Baker and his West Indies Dance Company delighted the audience. The troupe of male and female dancers graced the stage as drummers pounded beats in accompaniment. Next, spoken word artist Armen Rah performed three of his poems. One, titled “Chains and Whips”, talked about the Hip Hop culture’s obsession with gold chains, also known as “bling”, and with expensive cars, known as whips. Rah, who got the audience to repeat the line “chains and whips” throughout various verses in the poem, addressed how chains and whips were also the tools of white enslavers.

Rounding out the day’s celebration was the Ari Brown Quartet, which performed several jazz numbers.

Another annual Kwanzaa celebration took place in Austin as the Austin African American Business Networking Association hosted its 5th Annual Kwanzaa event on Dec. 28. This year, the event took place at the Sankofa Cultural Arts and Business Center, 5820 W. Chicago. More than 100 people attended the event. Gospel singer and Austin native Darius Brooks gave an emotional performance, also talking in between songs about his mother and family and how they’ve inspired him over the years. Several vendors from Chicago and other states sold their goods at the event.

The seven principles of Kwanzaa

UMOJA (Unity)
KUHCHAGULIA (Self-determination)
UJIMA (Collective work, responsibility)
UJAMAA (Co-operative economics)
NIA (Purpose)
KUUMBA (Creativity)
IMANI (Faith)

Kwanzaa, founded in 1966, is a non-political and non-religious holiday that is not related to Christmas.