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Kwanzaa celebration in Hempstead draws dozens

In honor of the fourth day of Kwanzaa, the African American Museum in Hempstead held a discussion on the seven principles of Kwanzaa, with a focus on the principle of ujamma, or cooperative economics. Videojournalist: Brittany Wait (Dec. 29, 2012)

Nadine Satterthwaite brought her 3-year-old son, Bryce, who wore a colorful Kente poncho made in Ghana, to a Kwanzaa celebration to learn more about their African-American culture.

“It was his first exposure to Kwanzaa and I’d like him to be more involved in his culture,” said Satterthwaite, of Freeport. “We have a surface understanding of what Kwanzaa is, but I really wanted to expose him to more of his heritage.”

Satterthwaite and her son were among the nearly 40 people who celebrated Kwanzaa through song and prayer at the African American Museum in Hempstead on Saturday.

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The African-Atlantic Genealogical Society hosted the celebration to honor traditional African values and pray for a new year with a “bountiful harvest of love, peace and joy.”

The museum, which has celebrated the holiday for the last 28 years, welcomed Long Islanders to sing, deliver spiritual words and teach young children more about the culture.

Electra Nicholson, 34, of Hempstead, recited a poem she wrote about the meaning of Kwanzaa.

“We must believe in ourselves and our family to strengthen our community and let our culture shine through,” she recited. “‘Cause we are people of beauty and substance and grace, I must say we are a mighty race.”

Audrey Hadden, assistant programming director of the African-Atlantic Genealogical Society, said the seven-day holiday was first celebrated in 1966.

“Today’s program involved a discussion of Kwanzaa, what it means and a recommitment to its values,” said Hadden, 48, of Hempstead. “We discussed the seven principles and their values and how they help us make choices and goals in our lives. So, instead of making New Year’s resolutions, we’re going to concentrate on the seven principles.”

Kwanzaa, which is held from Dec. 26 to Jan. 1, means “first fruits of the harvest” in Swahili. The seven principles include unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith.

“It’s important for the community to celebrate Kwanzaa to take time out to reflect on our heritage, to honor our elders, to see how the past affects our present and how we can move forward with hope for the future,” Hadden said. “It’s about personal growth.”

Hempstead native Willie Houston, who served as assistant director of the museum from 1981 to 2003, came back to Long Island this year just to take part in Kwanzaa festivities.

“Kwanzaa is such an important time. It calls on us to reaffirm and reinforce our history and culture,” said Houston, 64, of Pensacola, Fla. “We practice certain principles throughout the year, so that we can give young people something to live by, so they can begin to develop a positive attitude to their family, community, nation and self.”

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