Youngstown church celebrates Kwanzaa’s 50 years

The youth group Harambee danced and played drums at Youngstown's New Bethel Baptist Church

The first night of Kwanzaa at Youngstown's New Bethel Baptist Church started with song.

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WYTV) – The first night of Kwanzaa at Youngstown’s New Bethel Baptist Church started with song.

“[Monday] marks the 50th anniversary of Kwanzaa being celebrated nationally,” said Ron Miller, Kwanzaa organizer. “It was developed in 1966. We’ve been practicing Kwanzaa in Youngstown since 1968.”

Playing a major role in this first night event was the youth group Harambee.

They did the dancing and the drum playing.

“It’s not just dance,” said Katrina Simms, Harambee choreographer. “It’s also to teach you your culture, to give the young men and the young women self esteem. To talk about a lot of social issues that are going on.”

Myra Taylor is a junior at East High. She has been part of Harambee for eight years.

“[Kwanzaa] means let’s all pull together, basically,” Taylor said. “We’re all a family and we’re just here celebrating what we love to do.”

Along with traditional dancing, there was an explanation of the symbols of Kwanzaa, all based around the seven principals: unity, self-determination, collective responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith.

The pledge to the Kwanzaa flag was read and black national anthem sung.

“That is the purpose of Kwanzaa,” Miller said. “So that African Americans can take stock of their unique history — their unique experience — in this country.”