Kwanzaa, the holiday that celebrates African heritage, pride and virtues,will be observeddr-maulana-ron-karenga by its founder Dr. Maulana Karenga in the city that was once the capital of the confederacy, Richmond, Va. Thanks to Janeen Bell, director of the Elegaba Folklore Society, Dr. Karenga will be a special guest on December 29th to participate in the 2012 Capital City Kwanzaa Festival.

Presented by the Elegba Folklore Society, Richmond’s cultural ambassador, the Capital City Kwanzaa Festival, now in its 22nd year, is the largest Kwanzaa celebration in Virginia and one of the largest, most popular on the East Coast. Each year thousands of people from the Richmond metro, around the state and throughout the Mid-Atlantic region attend. Bell says it is the warmth of the festival and its relevant way of celebrating the season that appeal to so many people.

“It is a great honor to have Dr. Karenga to recognize the Capital City Kwanzaa Festival as an event that embodies the Nguzo Saba, the Seven Principles of Kwanzaa, with integrity and accuracy,” says Bell.  “Dr. Karenga is an intellectual and a soldier -- an elder in our midst who is both personable and informing. His presence is also affirming and grounding, and his words give clarity and hope to strengthen families and build community. The Elegba Folklore Society is humbled that by his presence, Dr. Karenga sees our work in partnership with his own,” explains Bell.

Dr. Karenga says that there are several reasons that he has again accepted the invitation to lecture and share in the celebration of Kwanzaa in Richmond. “Richmond is a major center for the celebration of Kwanzaa; it is an important site of African American history and culture. The city has been a very welcoming and enjoyable experience for my wife, Tiamoyo, and me every time I've come to lecture on campus or in the community.”

elegba kwanzaaIt is significant that Dr. Karenga joins the Kwanzaa celebrations in Richmond because its history is telling of the evolution of African people in America.  Some years after the arrival of Africans to Virginia in 1619, Richmond, in its location along the James River, became an inland drop off point for Africans to be sold into lifelong bondage.  By the mid 1800's Richmond was the nation's largest interstate exchange point; more Africans came through Richmond's notorious markets than anywhere else in the nation.  

“Our ancestors' presence is felt in the city's economics, in its buildings, in its stories, in its spirit -- history hidden in plain sight,” explains Bell.  “Many African American firsts occurred in Richmond in banking, in business, in law and in social organizations.  Even now, the majority of the city's population in black as is much of its leadership.  To remember that our culture is a key to our success and to reconnect with traditional African value systems in the celebration of the Kwanzaa holiday helps to bring our story full circle.”

In addition to festivities, 2012 Capital City Kwanzaa will include performances and classes, cultural history tours and visual arts exhibitions. The cultural festival will take on characteristics of a village when families in their multi-generations come together to enjoy performances, hear stirring speakers, shop at the African Marketplace, sample cuisine of the African Diaspora and exchange ideas in the various workshops. Children make crafts to take home that express some aspect of Kwanzaa or African and African American heritage.  

“Establishing and growing cultural connections is important to the mission of the Elegba Folklore Society and to the significance of Kwanzaa,” says Bell. 

For more information on the Elegba Folklore Society, visit www.efsinc.org, and on Kwanzaa, visit www.officialKwanzaawebsite.org.