By Ikra Islam ’19
Eager students, parents and alumni fill the auditorium patiently waiting for Kwanzaa Fest to begin. The Black Heritage Alliance (BHA) celebrated the 29th year of Kwanzaa on December 20. The festival is annually held to teach students about Kwanzaa’s seven core values.
Kwanzaa is a week-long celebration honoring African heritage. The holiday was created by Maulana Karenga, a professor of African Studies, in 1966. Karenga created the seven principles in order to strengthen the African American community. The seven principles call for unity, self-determination, creativity, faith and more. Karenga believes these values are the foundation of African philosophy.
Safiya Skeffar ’18, President of the BHA, said, “It’s important students connect back to their roots. It’s a reminder to stay motivated and stay united.”
The show was set in Mr. Jay’s fictional history class at Midwood High School. The show began with Mr. Jay trying to teach his class about the history of Kwanzaa. While Mr. Jay
plays a video for his students, they all end up falling asleep.
The students are then transported into an alternate reality, where they meet the Kwanzaa fairy, played by Melissa Charles. The Kwanzaa fairy’s job is to help each student discover their inner Kwanzaa principle. If the students fail to discover their Kwanzaa principle, they are forever trapped in the alternate reality, where the Kwanzaa Fairy loses her wings. Through dances, poetry and songs, we learn about the seven principles of Kwanzaa and their importance.
Maisha Hanif ’19 said that her favorite part was the fashion show.
“The designs were bright and colorful, which I loved. They really did an amazing job adding a modern twist to the clothing,” said Hanif.
The fashion show featured various designs from Ms. Karen Richards.
Ms. Richards presented 15 unique designs with vibrant colors and patterns. Each outfit was tailored specifically for the models to accentuate their features. The show featured all kind of models with various shapes and sizes.
Students chanted in support for their friends and classmates as they appeared on the runway. The audience filled the room with love and support, highlighting the fashion show as a major moment in the show.
Hajira Ishtiaq said her favorite part was the spoken word performance by Kiandra Peart. Peart performed an original piece called “This Nation.” “This Nation” addressed the many forms of racial injustice faced by African Americans.
“They talked about something that the audience could relate to and that grabbed our attention,” said Ishtiaq ’19.
Peart’s performance was a major head turner. The audience really came to life during her performance, cheering her on until the very end. Peart ’19 said, “One of the challenges of performing such a sensitive piece was making sure I wasn’t tearing down another group, while uplifting my own.”
Maisha Hanif ’19 said, “Kiandra’s performance needed to be heard, it was very inspiring and touched a very important issue.”
Towards the end of the show, Sadiq Jonas read the poem “I, Too” by Langston Hughes. The poem’s focus on equality caused goosebumps to rise as students listened.
The show ended with a surprise performance by rapper Safaree, a Midwood alumnus. Safaree Samuels started his musical career in the group The Hoodstars. He later rose to fame working with Nicki Minaj, as her hype man and later as her boyfriend. Currently, Safaree is a star in VH1’s reality TV show, Love & Hip Hop: New York.
On his visit, Safaree performed his latest single “Paradise” and spoke about his time at Midwood.
“I spent five years at Midwood and I enjoyed all of them. I want to remind everybody that school is important. So, stay in school,” said Safaree.
Mohima Oishe ’19 said, “Safaree’s performance was very entertaining. I didn’t know Midwood had a celebrity alumnus.”
After the show ended, the audience went downstairs to the cafeteria for a feast prepared by the students.
Orlando Alexis ’18 attended the feast and said, “The food at Kwanzaa feast was very delicious and had various wonderful taste. Also the feast after Kwanzaa was fun because it was nice to see everyone get along and enjoy their time together.”
This year’s Kwanzaa covered everything from hilarious comebacks to eye-opening references to social and racial injustice. Overall, it was great way to spend the evening with friends and family. If you attended this year’s Kwanzaa Fest you know it
was a major win, and if you didn’t, well, there’s always next year.