It’s the most wonderful time of the year – holiday season. One major part of the holiday season is the weeklong celebration of Kwanzaa, and each year, the Forward Times celebrates Kwanzaa and its rich cultural principles.
This year, the Forward Times joined forces with the historic S.H.A.P.E. Community Center on the first night of Kwanzaa, Tuesday, December 26, 2017, at the newly renovated Emancipation Park, to honor seven elders who best exemplified the seven principles of Kwanzaa.
Hundreds of community leaders, residents and people from across the Greater Houston area gathered to celebrate the strength of our families, recognize the talent and tenacity of our youth, and honor the wisdom of the seven elders who were honored, which included:
UNITY – Ms. Virlee Champion Shaw, who is 101 years of age and worked with Thurgood Marshall to win a major lawsuit to deal with discrimination in the area of education
SELF-DETERMINATION – Elder Jean Wilkins Dember, who is 89 years of age, and known for her feisty personality and tenacious spirit
COLLECTIVE WORK & RESPONSIBILITY – Mr. Ed Banks, who is 74 years of age, and affectionately known as the “Mayor of Third Ward”
COOPERATIVE ECONOMICS – Dr. Romanuel Washington Jr., who is 91, and was the first African American chiropractor in the State of Texas
PURPOSE – Rev. Gwenn Pierre, who is 68 and a graduate of Evan E. Worthing High School
CREATIVITY – Ms. Jacqueline Brannon Giles, who is 74, and a graduate of Fidelity Manor High School
FAITH – Mr. Haywood Talib, who is 78, and a graduate of Phyllis Wheatley High School
The evening also featured live entertainment, dancing, libations, traditional Kwanzaa cultural celebrations and much more. This event is sure to be remembered and will continue to have a long-lasting impact on the community and its residents for years to come.
The following are the seven (7) principles of Kwanzaa:
Day 1 – Unity (Umoja): To strive for and to maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and race.
Day 2 – Self-Determination (Kujichagulia): To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves, and speak for ourselves.
Day 3 – Collective Work and Responsibility (Ujima): To build and maintain our community together and make our brothers’ and sisters’ problems our problems, and to solve them together.
Day 4 – Cooperative Economics (Ujamaa): To build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses and to profit from them together.
Day 5 – Purpose (Nia): To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.
Day 6 – Creativity (Kuumba): To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.
Day 7 – Faith (Imani): To believe with all our hearts in God, our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders, and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.
Since 1969, the S.H.A.P.E., which stands for “Self Help for African People through Education,” has been at the core of the Houston community, providing programs and advocacy geared towards youth, family and the revitalization and strengthening of the family.
S.H.A.P.E. Community Center has been a staple in Houston’s African American community for over four decades. Each Saturday, you can find about 25-30 new volunteers being trained by Parker at their new volunteer orientation. All of these new volunteers come looking for ways to help an organization that has helped so many.
S.H.A.P.E. provides Family Strengthening & Empowerment Programs year-round, with parent support groups, youth/family guidance and counseling. They also provide Community Empowerment Programs, including a Fruit & Vegetable Cooperative, Wholistic Health activities, Kwanzaa Celebrations, Council of Elders, Pan African Cultural Festival, Legal Assistance clinics, Youth & Adult Computer Classes, and forums for community issues, and other empowerment activities.
The community center, which started in 1969 with only a staff of two, now supports 20 full-time, part-time and seasonal staff and hundreds of volunteers and has gained both national and international attention. The people of Gambia embraced the S.H.A.P.E. philosophy and developed the S.H.A.P.E. Community Center in The Gambia in 2001.
S.H.A.P.E. has received over 400 awards over their 43 years of serving the community, including the Jefferson Award, MLK Humanitarian Award, State of Texas (TCADA) Substance Abuse Prevention Award, along with many others too numerous to list. S.H.A.P.E. has made presentations in London, England on “Building Institutions” in 1993 and in Washington, D.C. for the National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC). It has conducted many seminars for schools throughout the Greater Houston and Southeast Texas area.
The Forward Times was excited to participate and is looking forward to participating as a community partner that honors our elders in the community, each and every year.