Inclement weather could not stop a large crowd from coming out for the first day of Kwanzaa celebrations last Saturday at Sankofa Business and Cultural Arts Center, 5820 W. Chicago Ave.

The 7th annual event was sponsored by the Austin African American Business Networking Association. Executive Director Malcolm Crawford and his wife, Stacia, hosted this year’s event once again at the center, a multiuse facility in Austin.

At the outset, Crawford always acknowledges his wife, children and parents. During his explanation of their mission, he told the audience how elated he was when one of his sons talked of being excited about
celebrating Christmas and then Kwanzaa.

State Rep. Deborah Graham (78th), Cook County Commissioner Earlean Collins and Ade Onayemi, who is running against Collins in the 1st District race for Cook County Board, were all present and enjoying the festivities. The invocation was given by Pastor Rickey Sanders, and WVON radio personality Kendall Moore served as MC. Guest speaker for the evening was Derrick Taylor, vice president of the Black McDonald’s Association.

Maggie Brown, daughter of famed musician Oscar Brown Jr., who died in May 2005, once again performed, along with her sons. Like her father, she is able to perform solo or with her sister, Africa. Brown self-produced the recording, “From My Window,” which was released on the Mag Pie Records label in 1996. She was also nominated for the Chicago Music Awards for best jazz CD and best jazz performer in the 1990s.

Poetry was read by poet and author Charles Ellis and Austin high school students Tamara Lynch and Damon Dunn. Lynch and Dunn participated in a poetry slam, Dec. 9, organized by Ellis and hosted at the Sankofa Center, featuring high school students in Austin and the greater West Side.

Also featured at the Kwanzaa event Saturday was an African dance performed by Oak Park’s Longfellow School Dancers. A family-style meal was served, and vendors were on hand selling and showcasing their products.