The African drumbeats get steadily louder, urgently moving from one end of the enormous building to the other. Spirits of ancient family traditions blend with modern visions of creating a better community. Such is the stirring experience of KwanzaaFest, December 8 and 9 at the Automobile Building in Fair Park. Now in its 16th year, the free event celebrates the unique African American holiday of Kwanzaa by reaffirming its principles reflecting family, community and cultural values. Kwanzaa, observed from December 25th to January 1st of each year, was created in 1966 to honor African American heritage and means “first fruits” in Swahili.
In 1990, Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price and his staff envisioned an expo that would help shape a better community through the seven Kwanzaa principles: Unity (Umoja), Self-determination (Kujichagulia), Collective Work and Responsibility (Ujima), Cooperative Economics (Ujamaa), Purpose (Nia), Creativity (Kuumba) and Faith (Imani). “We wanted to raise the consciousness about understanding the meaning of life,” explains Mr. Price. “If we focus on enhancing the emancipation, education and enterprise of African American people through unity and collective work, we can significantly improve the quality of life for area residents.” Though KwanzaaFest targets certain zip codes, it is open to the public.
This way to possibilities.
KwanzaaFest is now so popular that it attracts over 40,000 local, regional and national participants. These include African American vendors and sponsors who come together to promote how successful black men and women can be by following their goals and dreams.
“This is the largest free black business and heritage expo in Texas,” says Mr. Price. “Our vendors demonstrate the entrepreneurial spirit, inspiring others to own a business, a home, get a better education and improve their lives.” Exhibitors range from crafters and painters to computer, real estate and travel services companies. Mr. Price recently received the 2007 A. Maceo Smith Volunteer Service Award in the area of Business for founding the KwanzaaFest event and helping people help themselves.
Beyond promoting black ingenuity, the synergy of KwanzaaFest focuses on the well-being of the community…reaching out like “tentacles,” as Mr. Price puts it—to improve its health, education and cultural needs. The HealthFest component of the expo offers free screenings from more than 30 entities including hospitals, pharmaceutical companies and medical services. Attendees can take advantage of free mammograms, cholesterol and sickle cell anemia screenings, to name a few. “In fact,” states Mr. Price, “our only admission to KwanzaaFest is that that you commit to get yourself checked out for various diseases and physical problems; you receive a passport that must be stamped at various health stations. The most rewarding part is that we’ve detected many problems that would otherwise not have been found.” The KwanzaaFest Beat Obesity 5K Walk/Run around Fair Park on December 8 is also beneficial. It features music, prizes and a power breakfast.
The biggest KwanzaaFest draw is unbeatable entertainment. Major urban radio stations compete for the right to sponsor performers. Past artists have included the likes of Usher, Alicia Keys, Mario and Ludacris. This year’s lucky station is K104 and the lineup will be announced soon.
Another element, KidsFest, is a total family affair including bounce houses, Dallas Mavericks and Dallas Cowboys players, and much more. But heritage also plays an important role. “Griots, or elders, tell stories to the children,” says Mr. Price. “Kids learn what their responsibility is to their community at an early age.”
An event like KwanzaaFest can truly impact many Dallas area residents with its positive message, celebration of traditions and ability to provide essential health services. Come see how it can change your life for the better.