The hills of Bordeaux aren’t unfamiliar to the sound of African drumming at sundown, but once a year, the rhythms are coupled with the burning of seven candles symbolizing the principles of Kwanzaa along with the chanting of “Harambee” seven times as community members end the night shouting, “let’s pull together,” in KiSwahili.
On Sunday, December 26, 2021, the African Diaspora Youth Development Foundation, Inc. held its annual Kwanzaa celebration at the Bordeaux Farmers’ Market with an audience of about fifty community members from on island and those who travel home every year specifically for the Kwanzaa season.
While many things were simplified and abbreviated due to consideration of the spike in Covid-19 numbers, the gathering included the normal routine. A Kwanzaa table was set at the front of the area, cultural and thematic music playing throughout, an offering of vegan food, the farmers selling produce or value-added products including drinks, pastries, jewelry, clothing, and more.
The program consisted of the usual lineup, including an introduction by the Mistress of Ceremonies, Jaribu Bobo, who introduced the Blake family for the libation offering to the ancestors and those who paved the path.
The farmer report was given by Elridge Thomas, President of We Grow Food, Inc., and the elder report by Angelita Jennings. A new addition to the program, Majestik Estrada-Petersen, gave the youth report and thereafter received the annual Ankh award for KUUMBA (creativity).
When asked to be the guest speaker for the program, Ms. Jennings requested that Majestik speak on a young person’s view of the times, especially with her view on the social interactions of the youth in her circle during these times. She wondered if they were more open to social interaction or tended to introverted behavior like watching movies, gaming, etc.
What can we as a community do to assist in helping them to have a sense of normalcy? She also asked that Majestik include some of the things she is doing.
In response to how adults should speak to the younger generation, she stated, “Listen judgment-free without consequences, put us in contact with your connections, and give us resources. Money. We like money.”
Speaking to the other youth, Majestik stated, “Find your happy place and go there often. We are in a pandemic, and it has been very hard on all of us. Everything is in balance and situational.”
Her long-term goal is to open a school of the arts on St. Thomas for high school students. Majestik volunteers at Tillet Gardens assisting Amy Gibbs art classes as part of her experience building and service-learning and is also a vegan sous chef at Love Livin Restaurant, a babysitter, a hair braider, and an artist.
“I enjoy singing, dancing, poetry, drawing, painting, and public speaking. I am actively working on self-improvement, and it’s given me a happy place,” she said.
A 19-year-old senior at the University of the Virgin Islands studying Fine Arts, Education, and Entrepreneurship as an interdisciplinary studies major, when asked why she received the award, Estrada-Petersen said, “I think I got the Ankh Award for my Facebook ‘TED Talks’ and my pageant experience. I ask certain questions and hold certain discussions around topics, including feminism, to get people to identify, share and question their own gender biases and other kinds of bias.”
Earlier this year, Majestik ran for the Miss University of the Virgin Islands Ambassadorial Competition and placed 1st runner up. She self-choreographed her talent dancing Bamboula, African, and American dance. Her outfits, accessories, and hair were also coordinated by her with guidance and coaching from Chinwe Osaze and Jahweh David-Chinnery, along with other artists.
The principles and table setting items were explained within the program, and children were asked to light each candle on the kinara, with Marcelle Jennings explaining the symbolism for each candle and principle. Children were also asked questions about African history and culture, then rewarded with educational gifts called Zawadi. The eldest and youngest members of the audience also received Zawadi.
Once the Harambees concluded, the crowd continued to support those selling in the marketplace and lined up to be served food from Ras Nashamba-I, who donated the meal.
The remaining days of the seven-day holiday are filled with activities throughout the Virgin Islands which can all be seen listed on the Kwanzaa Kalendar.