Newburgh celebrates Kwanzaa

By Alberto Gilman
Posted 1/3/24

Families of the City of Newburgh enjoyed food, music, dancing and other activities on Thursday, December 28 as they partook in the Celebrations and Traditions of Kwanzaa hosted by the Newburgh Free …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Newburgh celebrates Kwanzaa


Families of the City of Newburgh enjoyed food, music, dancing and other activities on Thursday, December 28 as they partook in the Celebrations and Traditions of Kwanzaa hosted by the Newburgh Free Library and Ujima: A Children’s Literacy Program. The Kwanzaa holiday began on Tuesday, December 26 and was celebrated till Monday, January 1, 2024.

The National Museum of African American History and Culture identifies scholar and activist Maulana Ron Karenga as the founder of the national holiday first created in 1966. The celebration of Kwanzaa is a recognized period of time celebrating African American and Pan-African culture and traditions for families and communities. Its inspiration draws from celebratory periods of time in Africa known as first fruit festivals. These annual festivals celebrate the various harvest periods in communities throughout Africa, and Kwanzaa continues to be celebrated to this day throughout the United States and beyond.

The celebration on Thursday afternoon highlighted and celebrated the literacy program founded by local entrepreneur and resident Malinda Ware. This literacy program is in collaboration and partnership with the Newburgh Library with support from the Friends of the Library, private donations and other community organizations. For Ware, she extended her thanks to her husband, William Ware, her parents and her friends and supporters who believe in her vision of this program for Newburgh.

Families on Thursday were treated to performances by students from the Newburgh Performing Arts Academy, who performed traditional African dances and welcomed audience members to join in the celebratory movements along with the drums playing. Guests for the event included Mayor Torrance Harvey, Councilwoman Giselle Martinez, Assemblyman Jonathan Jacobson and Senator Rob Rolison.

In the center part of a Kwanzaa display with several children’s books, other celebratory pieces and art was a candle holder that featured seven candles, one black candle in the middle while three red candles made one side and three green ones made the other. The candles represented the seven principles of Kwanzaa.

The seven principles of Kwanzaa, which are drawn from community principles and values are Umoja (Unity), Kujichagulia (Self-Determination), Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility), Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics), Nia (Purpose), Kuumba (Creativity), and Imani (Faith).

The literacy program draws its name from the principle itself and is a monthly reading program for youth ages 5 to 8 years old to encourage families to read and build their own personal libraries. The program began in November 2022 and has already celebrated a year of work. The program promotes and highlights the collective work of African American authors and illustrators, some who are local as well.

“I think Ujima is definitely the start of something really big and really great. This is just a perfect platform to inspire these young people to get out here and read and become literate, because I saw a lot of illiteracy growing up,” said Ware. “When we want to teach our students how to read it has to be something exciting and if we’re learning about everybody, let’s learn about everybody, let’s learn about every culture, let’s learn about all traditions.”

Over the course of the next few months, the reading program will meet again on January 18 at 6 p.m. for a reading of Sulwe written by actress Lupita Nyong’o with Dr. Jackielyn Manning Campbell as a guest reader. The next book will be Dave the Potter by Laban Carrick Hill and will be read by the book’s illustrator, Bryan Collier, on February 15 at 6 p.m. I Promise written by LeBron James will be read on March 21 at 6 p.m., and the reader is to be announced later on.

Newburgh Board of Education member Philip Howard also joined in the festivities Thursday afternoon and expressed his joy in seeing the youth in attendance and being a part of the celebration.

“One of the biggest smiles on my face came by seeing the amount of young people that were in the audience, because I do truly believe that they are our future,” he said. “I think what’s beautiful about today, what’s beautiful about these seven days of Kwanzaa is that it gives us an opportunity, as a community, to celebrate, to celebrate a culture that is rich in tradition.”

Alongside Ware and her program, Howard, who is also a mentor and advocate for district youth, is hopeful for the future of the district’s children and looks to continue and grow the importance of reading and literacy. “Once you learn to read, you read to learn, the world is like an oyster to you,” he said. “I tell my kids, tomorrow belongs to those who best prepare for today.”

Families enjoyed food and kids took part in activities as the ceremony continued on throughout the day. To learn more about UJIMA, please visit: