On Saturday January 3rd, The SOHO in the BURG Gallery in Stroudsburg, PA and (as yet) the unofficial candidate for Commissioner of Monroe County, PA, Andre Reames, www.facebook.com/pages/Andre-Reames ushered in 2015 with a Kwanzaa Celebration for the community. The afternoon and early evening festival included dance, music, learning opportunities, and great food. A huge number of people attended the event in spite of the inclement weather that raged throughout the area but the warmth of the gallery's welcoming atmosphere and the congeniality of those who partook of the celebration created a beautiful day.
I arrive early to the event as it's organizer, Alicia LaRaine Jenkins Middleton of A New Life Ministry, Inc. www.facebook.com/anewlifeministry and Co Host of Sistah Chat 90.3 WESS FM www.facebook.com/SistahChat90.3, was generous enough to provide me with a ride to the celebration. I helped to set up for the gathering by bringing in tables and other items that would be needed and shared throughout the day. This activity provided me with an intimate perspective of the event's infrastructure as I learned more about and from those who were involved in its manifestation.
It was during this time did individuals from the Monroe County NAACP www.facebook.com/pages/Monroe-County-NAACP-Pocono-Mountains-PA and the National Council of Negro Women www.facebook.com/pages/THE-NATIONAL-COUNCIL-OF-NEGRO-WOMEN along with Althea Aikens who facilitated craft activities for the many children who would come to the event arrive to set up their tables. A wide variety of food arrived at this time as well that intrigued my taste buds. It took a great deal of fortitude and will power not to enthusiastically sample any of the culinary delights until the event was opened to the public. Luckily, I didn't have to wait very long as people began to arrive in slow trickles which eventually increased to a steady flow of community members and leaders.
Conversations filled the air as those who arrived congregated around the tables to learn more about the organizations that were represented and how to become involved with their endeavors while food and napkins were served by a number of young people whose smiles and positive attitudes flavored the treats they offered. Children who arrived with their parents and guardians eagerly partook of the youthful activities offered from Ms. Althea Aikens with laughing smiles. The festivities began as Andre Reames shared some welcoming words along with those of appreciation with those who were present. His remarks also included introductions of Cleo Jarvis (President of the African American Network www.facebook.com/pages/African-American-Network-Youth), Sharone Glasco (President of the National Council of Negro Women), and Bobbie Purcell-Clark (President of the Monroe County NAACP). These remarks were followed by some welcoming sentiments expressed by Andrea Robbins Rimberg who is the owner of The SOHO in the BURG Gallery.
All this was followed by a presentation given by the children who were present on the meaning of the Kwanzaa holiday as led by Ms. Aikens. The presentation was followed some inspiring words shared by Cleo Jarvis which led to the gentle singing of a song. It was after the echo of Ms. Jarvis' voice permeated the gallery did Andre Reames introduce H. Lloyd Weston whose incredible visual work adorned the establishment's walls. He shared his sentiments which included some thoughtfully profound words that etched themselves upon the souls of all who heard them. The depth of Mr. Weston's words were still being felt as a young pianist by the name of Cerdigen Caines took his place at the gallery's instrument and deftly performed a number of pieces to the delight of all who were present.
The soul touching musical interlude was followed by a stunning performance given by The Elevé Dance Theater www.facebook.com/EleveDanceTheater which is located in East Stroudsburg, PA. The movement of the dancers captivated the audience as the graceful characteristics of the choreography were epitomized by their considerable skills. As the performance reached its exuberant crescendo, those who witnessed the conclusion of the piece found themselves transformed by the experience. Some brief closing remarks by Mr. Reames ensued which were followed by those of Alicia LaRaine Jenkins Middleton who expanded upon the transformational qualities of The Elevé Dance Theater performance and entreated all who were present to participate in a line dance to which many did so.
As the line dance concluded, the denizens of the festival shared in conversations relating to all that had transpired throughout the day while Mr. Caines returned to the piano to share more of his musical renderings with the gathering. It was during this time did many shared their farewells with one another and begin their departure from the event. It was an enjoyable day filled with good company and entertainment mixed with opportunities to gain some meaningful information and to learn more about Andre Reames who will officially announce his candidacy for Monroe County Commissioner on Monday January 19th at the Monroe County Democratic Party Headquarters in Stroudsburg, PA www.facebook.com/monroedemspa. You’ll find photographs taken during the festival in The Kwanzaa 2105 Celebration at The SOHO In the Burg Photo gallery at www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10153486144783761.1073741827.91146283760&type=1 as well as other events that occurred at the gallery and neighboring galleries in The Stroudsburg Art District 2015 Archive at www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10152996701080421.1073741929.636000420&type=3 and events relating to the Performing Arts in 2015 in The Performing Arts 2015 Archive at www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.789279141163124.1073741841.207838092640568&type=1.
According to Wikipedia, Kwanzaa was created in 1965 by Maulana Karenga as an “oppositional alternative” to Christmas and derives from the Swahili phrase “matunda ya kwanza” which means “first fruits of the harvest.” However, he later altered his his original intentions so that practicing Christians would not be alienated. The holiday has its roots in the black nationalist movements predominant during the 1960s and was established as a means to help African Americans reconnect with their African cultural and historical heritage.
Kwanzaa celebrates seven principles which according to Mr. Karenga, is “the best of African thought and practice in constant exchange with the world.” These are Umoja (Unity), Kujichagulia (Self-Determination), Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility), Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics), Nia (Purpose), Kuumba (Creativity), and Imani (Faith). Various symbols are incorporated in the holiday to further convey the seven principles which include a decorative mat (Mkeka), corn (Muhindi) and other crops, a candle holder kinara with seven candles (Mishumaa Saba), a communal cup for pouring libation (Kikombe cha Umoja), gifts (Zawadi), a poster of the seven principles, and a black, red, and green flag. Many African Americans who celebrate Kwanzaa do so in addition to observing Christmas.
The SOHO in the BURG Gallery is located on the corner of 6th and Main Street in Stroudsburg, PA which was the location of the J. J. Newberry’s store. The gallery opened its doors to the public in April of 2012 and is owned by Andrea Robbins Rimberg who has become well known for her exuberant energies and creativity as many of her pieces are on display in prestigious galleries throughout the United States. The first exhibition to be presented at the Gallery in 2015 will open on Friday February 13th with an Artists' Reception featuring the works of Penny Ross www.pennyrosspainter.com, Jill Swersie www.jillswersie.com, and Andrei Protsouk www.facebook.com/AndreiProtsoukArt along with the work of local artists in a group show titled, “Black Valentine.” The exhibition will continue to be on display until the end of March. You can learn more about SOHO in the BURG, their future exhibits, and all the gallery has to offer the creative community by exploring their Facebook Page at www.facebook.com/pages/Soho-In-The-Burg-Gallery.
Photography by Paparazzi Paul