Former Y’town activist surprises crowd at Kwanzaa opening night

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Ron Daniels, former Youngstown community activist and television personality, introduced as one of the founders of Youngstown Kwanzaa 50 years ago, paid a surprise visit to the first day of this year’s weeklong event that celebrates African heritage in African-American culture.

“When we started Kwanzaa here in the former West Federal Street YMCA, we were among the first in the United States to celebrate Kwanzaa, which started in the United States 52 years ago,” said Daniels.

“It’s great to be back home and see that people are working together in unity; but when I see this community devastated, I know it hits black people the hardest,” Daniels said.

“I was almost moved to tears to see these young people,” he said, speaking of the dancers and drummers of the Youngstown Harambee Youth Organization.

Wednesday’s event at New Bethel Baptist Church was the first of several Kwanzaa ceremonies that are observed through Jan. 1, 2019, and culminate in a feast and gift-giving.

Kwanzaa, created by Maulana Karenga and first celebrated in 1966, has seven core principles collectively called Nguzo Saba. The principles are:

No. 1 – Umoja (unity) – to strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation and race.

No. 2 – Kujichagulia (self-determination) – to define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves and speak for ourselves.

No. 3 – Ujima (collective work and responsibility) – to build and maintain our community together, make our brother’s and sister’s problems our problems, and solve them together.

No. 4 – Ujamaa (cooperative economics) – to build and maintain our own stores, shops and other businesses and to profit from them.

No. 5 – Nia (purpose) – to make as our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.

No. 6 – Kuumba (creativity) - to do always as much as we can, in the way that we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful than when we inherited it.

No. 7 – Imani (faith) – to believe with all our hearts in our parents, our teachers, our leaders, our people and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.

“Kawanzaa is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate our history and culture through music, dancing and cultural expression,” as presented by the Harambee Youth Organization, said the Rev. Kenneth L. Simon, New Bethel’s pastor.

“Bless this celebration. May we leave here empowered,” he told the crowd.

The stars of the celebration were the members of the Harambee group, which was founded and led by Ron and Lynnette Miller.

The energetic dancing was offered by girls and women ranging from toddlers to young girls and young women. The drummers were no less enthusiastic and skillful and provided background for the dancers.

Among the other parts of the ceremony were the “Salute to the African-American Flag;” and the singing of the black national anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”

The evening ended with a

covered-dish meal and shopping at the vendors’ tables in the church lobby.

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