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Arts center holds Kwaanza celebration

"This is an important occasion and important for the African-Americans and the larger community to understand about this holiday, particularly as Christmas had become such a commercial event," said Conn. "Here was one that was firmly grounded in principals and not gifts, so to speak, and so it felt like it would be a good thing to introduce to the community."

This year's Kwanzaa celebration occurred on the fifth day of Kwanzaa. Since it fell on the fifth day, the theme was Nia.

While the program was free, participants were asked to bring a piece of fruit to share in the community fruit basket.

"When you say 'bring a fruit,' that means so much more than the monetary value of the fruit. A fruit has its own value, and Kwanzaa is based on harvest festivals, so fruit is connected with that," said Conn.

The fruit was eventually handed out, and each participant received a piece to bring home.

At the event, there was also an African market, where vendors sold goods, foods and services.

Workshops were also offered into the early part of the evening. For children, a workshop called "All About Kwanzaa" was held, which taught children about the holiday, its history and its meaning.

There was a workshop led by Corey Ellis called "Obama and Us," as well as discussions on economics and a youth roundtable discussion called "Teens in the Digital Information Age."

"It was an opportunity for people, some of whom knew each other, to sit down and really wrestle with some important issues and important questions. That is sort of strengthening our community. We need to think about things and discuss," said Conn.

One of the hands-on workshops was about African drumming and dancing with Zorki Nelson and Sue Deane. Children's craft activities were offered throughout the evening and there was also an African Drum Circle.

Entertainment, which was offered throughout the night, included performances by area artists including Hamilton Hill Arts Center's own Umoja African Drummers and Dancers, poetry readings, Don Hyman and Betty Harper, Boogie Daddy, Onyx dancers, the Hamilton Hill Steel Drum Band and the Macedonia Men's Choir.

Before the event, Gaddy expected anywhere between 500 and 800 people to turn out for the evening of festivities.

"The traffic has been tremendous throughout the years," said Gaddy.

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