Celebration of faith and family takes on deeper meaning in age of Coronavirus

Lucy "Sierra Leone" and Robert Owens with their sons Nesta and Winston. The family celebrates Kwanzaa.
Lucy "Sierra Leone" and Robert Owens with their sons Nesta and Winston. The family celebrates Kwanzaa.

Today not only marks the first day of the new year, it is also the seventh and final day of Kwanzaa when we celebrate the principle Imani: faith in our parents, teachers, leaders, and victory over struggle.

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Safety protocols brought about by COVID changed our celebration. Still the global crisis created an opportunity for family innovation, heartfelt handmade gifts and time to reflect on 2020.

We had the time to connect as a family and decide what traditions and activities would work best.

Lucy "Sierra Leone" Owens, a recipient of a 2018 Governor's Award for the Arts. CONTRIBUTED
Lucy "Sierra Leone" Owens, a recipient of a 2018 Governor's Award for the Arts. CONTRIBUTED

Credit: HANDOUT

Credit: HANDOUT

Kwanzaa is a Swahili word that signifies first fruits. On the first day of 2021, celebrating the harvest of health, grit, collective, works/economics, and innovation as individuals and a community is a must.

My husband Robert and I were born into large families steeped in their own Christmas and holiday traditions. When our children were born, we began to deepen our connection with Kwanzaa principles and practices. It has been a joy to teach them the cultural history, stories, songs, and symbols. Robert believes the holiday “is a diverse expression of Blackness, spirit, and beauty of a universal people.”

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Our oldest son, 15-year-old Nesta, loves strengthening our family/communal bond, reading the daily principle, Karamu (feast), and wholeness. Since he was 3 years old, our youngest son Winston has expressed joy for both Christmas and Kwanzaa.

“Mom, the holiday colors are red and green, and on December 26, I love adding the color black.”

Now 8, he finds joy in lighting the kinara, learning about his culture, receiving and giving Zawawi’s (gifts).

Lucy "Sierra Leone" and Robert Owens celebrate  Kwanzaa with their sons Nesta and Winston (pictured).
Lucy "Sierra Leone" and Robert Owens celebrate Kwanzaa with their sons Nesta and Winston (pictured).

As Baba Larry Crowe of Dayton Africana Elders Council shared with me, “54 years ago, Maulana Ron Karenga intended to create a moral, meaningful, material view of the world when he adopted African harvest traditions and developed seven principles.”

The most important part of Kwanzaa is togetherness. It is a holiday that lives in our hearts; Mama Nozipo Glenn, a convener of the Dayton Africana Elders Council, shared with me, " Kwanzaa is much bigger than a specific day, time, place, individualized culture or religion. It is a collective oneness of all the children of Africa no matter where they are in the world, Nguzo saba (seven principles) can be practiced all year round.”

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We are bringing a more profound knowledge of human kindness into 2021. Born out the pandemic that has collectively cut across and exposed health, social, racial, cultural, and political divides - creating rapid evolution.

Lucy "Sierra Leone" and Robert Owens celebrate  Kwanzaa with their sons Nesta and Winston (pictured).
Lucy "Sierra Leone" and Robert Owens celebrate Kwanzaa with their sons Nesta and Winston (pictured).

The permanent bookmark of 2020 leaves us believing in something greater than ourselves and eagerly welcoming the grace of 2021 into our lives.

Mother and artist Sierra Leone is the executive and artistic director of OFP Theatre & Production Company, a Dayton hub for urban creative artists. She won a 2018 Ohio Governor’s Award.

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