By the time the Najwa youth dancers took to the floor at The Sankofa Centerfs annual Kwanzaa event last Friday, the packed audience was ready to applaud, yelp and signify to the sound of African beats.

The 8th annual Kwanzaa celebration was a sell out Dec. 30 for the Sankofa Cultural Arts and Business Center, 5820 W. Chicago Ave.; the event was co-sponsored by the Austin Chamber of Commerce.

The performance lineup included poetry by flowstress Awthentik, songs by budding artist, 16-year-old Nikki Hayes; and jazz recording artist Dee Alexander, as well as the Najwa Junior Corps. The nightfs guest speaker was appellate Judge Joy Cunningham, whofs running for the Illinois Supreme Court, the first black woman ever to seek the statefs high court.

The evening included the annual awards presentation for community service and business owner of the year. Starting this year, the community service award will be named after Delores McCain, Austin Weekly Newsf ‘mother reporter” who died in September 2010. The two service awards went to Marry Peery of the Austin Green Team and Al Wysinger, First Deputy of the Chicago Police and former 15th District police commander. The Business Owner of the Year award went to jewelry designer Kelley Moseley.

Wysinger, however, would not be present for the awards ceremony, Malcolm Crawford, Sankofafs owner, told the audience.

Wysinger, who spoke with Crawford earlier in the evening, had to cancel in order to attend a press conference concerning the recent shooting death of Austin police officer Clifton Lewis. The 41-year-old veteran cop was shot during an attempted nighttime robbery Dec. 29 at an Austin neighborhood grocery store. Lewis died later at Stroger Hospital.

Crawford told the crowd that he wanted to give the award to Wysinger earlier in the evening but Wysinger said to hold onto it and hefd accept it at a later ceremony. Wysinger, Crawford said, was very emotional over the death of Lewis.

A brief moment of silence for Lewis was led by state Rep. LaShawn Ford and other elected officials during the Kwanzaa celebration.