- Faith & Family
One-by-one each person in the room stood and spoke one name aloud. They proclaimed the names of those that they loved and whose examples they now follow. The young and the old boldly spoke the names of those men and women whose contributions have impacted their lives. They called their elders, their role models and their mentors. They remembered the names of grandmothers, grandfathers and other loved ones who have paved the way.
This was how the 23rd Annual Mary Williams Woodard Legacy Kwanzaa Celebration began. The event, sponsored by the Miami-Dade Chapter of the Florida A&M University [FAMU] National Alumni Association and Community Builders Holistic Development, emphasized the importance of elders, African heritage and Kwanzaa.
In the spirit of Kwanzaa, the Osundara Yoruba Dance Troupe danced, the libation ritual was performed, the symbols of Kwanzaa and the Nguzo Saba (the seven principles of Kwanzaa) were explained. The Black family pledge by Maya Angelou was recited. The pride of Florida A&M University was evident among the attendees who included graduates of the 1960s and FAMU current students.
The night focused on the importance of heritage, culture, family and principles and was hosted by Chief Nathaniel B. Styles, Jr., the executive director of Osundara Yoruba Dance Troupe.
The principles of Kwanzaa (Nguzo Saba) were recited as the Kwanzaa Kinara (candle) was lit. They are Umoja (unity), Kujichagulia (self-determination), Ujima (cooperative economics), Nia (purpose), Kuumba (creativity) and Imani (faith).
Imir Hall, 18, a FAMU freshman and recipient of the Mary Williams Woodard Foundation Scholarship, said it was his first time attending the event and celebrating Kwanzaa. He said he enjoyed learning the meanings of the symbols.
“The celebration is important because it helps you keep in touch with your heritage so that you won’t forget,” Hall said.
Arthur Woodard, 84, called his late wife’s name Mary Williams Woodard, who started the celebration 23 years ago, when he stood to name an elder. He smiled as he reflected on his wife’s involvement in the past Woodard Kwanzaa celebrations.
“It’s an outstanding tribute to Africa and America,” he said.
Nivia Woodard, FAMU graduate and granddaughter of Mary Williams Woodard, attended the event with her grandfather. She said the event was educational and enjoyable as always.
“It’s important to our family because we strive to live by these principles and share them with others,” she said.
Vanessa Woodard Byers, who directed the event, said she was pleased with the impact that the event had on her community.
“We never rehearse, but it is always good when people come together and do something positive,” she said.
By Malika A. Wright