Twenty-sixth Annual Kwanzaa Celebration Brings Families and Community Together

Traditional foods and fresh fruits sit in front of the kinara candles, one of which are lit each day during Kwanzaa. Photo credit: Kwanzaa Facebook page.

LAWNSIDE, N.J. — The 26th annual Kwanzaa Celebration in Lawnside will take place Sunday, December 29, from 3:00 P.M. to 7:00 P.M. at the Wayne Bryant Center.

One of the best parts of the festivities is how it brings together families and the community says the celebrations founder Dolores Logan.

“This celebration represents me and my ways,” Logan said. “It’s community coming together and represents the principles we practice in our daily lives.”

Kwanzaa, a holiday that was created by Dr. Maulana Karenga, chair of Africana studies at California State University, Long Beach, in 1966, is a pan-African holiday which celebrates family, community, and culture and is celebrated from December 26 through January 1. Each day the holiday celebrates one of seven principles:  unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith. 

Logan says that having a Kwanzaa celebration in Lawnside is particularly meaningful to their community.

“It is very important that we have the celebration in our town as an historic African American community,” Logan said.  

Lawnside sits on land that was purchased by abolitionists in 1840 to establish a community for freed and escaped slaves as well as other African Americans. Originally referred to as “Snow Hill” and “Free Haven”, the town was officially named after the train station constructed by the Reading Railroad along the Atlantic City Railroad in 1907.

Lawnside was incorporated in 1926  becoming the first independent self-governing African American community north of the Mason-Dixon line.

The celebration will include a number of activities, vendors, and arts and crafts as well as a full course meal consisting of traditional holiday faire.  The event will also feature a performance from the Universal African Dance and Drum Ensemble.

“I am very excited to see them,” Logan said.

Universal African Dance and Drum Ensemble. Photo credit: UAD Facebook page.

Founded in 1984, the Camden city based Universal African Dance and Drum Ensemble is a group of professionals, educators, nurses, veterans, police, business, community personnel, college students, school students and children whose goals are to “ help everyone and especially African-Americans or Black People of all religions or ways of life to learn, appreciate and understand the importance of honoring our heritage, roots and place of origin, which is the most beautiful and resourceful geographical area that is called Africa,” according to their website.

“I look forward to the community and families coming together and to be of one accord,” Logan said.

The Wayne Bryant Center is located at 323 East Charleston Avenue in Lawnside. The celebration is free and open to all. Freewill donations will be accepted.