Fleetwood-Jourdain Artistic Director Tim Rhoze introduces artist Eric Beauchamp Photo by Heidi Randhava

The unveiling of the outdoor Kwanzaa kinara display in Evanston’s Fountain Square took place at 11 a.m. on Dec. 26. The debut of the commissioned work, created by Evanston-based artist Eric Beauchamp, marked the first day of Kwanzaa and the beginning of the City’s seven-day Kwanzaa festival presented by Fleetwood-Jourdain Theatre.

Sunshine, blue skies, masks, and social distancing made the 15-minute event safe and celebratory for the group of 12 people who attended in person.

The ceremony was live-streamed on Dear Evanston’s Facebook page. Special guests included Alderman Robin Rue Simmons, 5th Ward, Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, and Rabbi Andrea London of Beth Emet The Free Synagogue.

“This was about a year in the making. Through the design work and estimates from other places and artists, we finally … gave Eric [Beauchamp] the responsibility, and he’s done a fantastic job. It’s a gorgeous display that I think the entire community can be proud of,” Fleetwood-Jourdain Theatre Artistic Director Tim Rhoze told the RoundTable.

Mr. Beauchamp was present for the reveal of the giant kinara, which holds one black, three red, and three green candles.

“I’m very proud to be part of the project and was excited to participate. I’ve enjoyed the process and I hope that the outcome will inspire people to celebrate and also to learn more about it,” Mr. Beauchamp said.

Ald. Rainey and Ald. Simmons also made public comments about the new display.

“In this square we had the lighting of the Menorah for Chanukah. We had the Christmas tree lighting and we have the Kwanzaa celebration. The very first principle of Kwanzaa is unity, and I thought, ‘That is just so meaningful,’ And it isn’t every community that can do this. I’m just so proud of Evanston, Tim Rhoze, and Fleetwood-Jourdain Theatre,” said Ald. Rainey.

Ald. Rue Simmons greeted the group with, “Habari Ghani!” the traditional greeting during Kwanzaa, meaning “What’s the news?’’

“How appropriate that we are here, on this first day of Kwanzaa, celebrating and lifting up unity … Umoja [unity] really is a way of life. … We can look to the principles of Kwanzaa and put some action behind them daily. And we’ve done that already here in Evanston…as our community has responded to COVID.

“How appropriate that a brilliant craftsman made this kinara, a wonderful response to what a kinara should be, appropriately Evanston-based. …Thank you, Tim [Rhoze] for all that you’ve done. Thank you to the Fleetwood-Jourdain Theatre. Thank you to all of our City staff. There’s a lot of staff that really made this happen.”

The lighted piece, set to a timer, will be on display at Fountain Square, at the intersection of Davis Street and Sherman Avenue, through the last day of Kwanzaa, Jan. 1.

“It is definitely sculptural. It encompasses wood, metal, woodwork, and metalwork. It’s about eight feet wide and five feet tall. There is a steel platform underneath with rollers…the candle bodies are all steel and they’re powder-coated,” said Mr. Beauchamp, whose BeauBois Studios are located at Noyes Cultural Arts Center.

“This is something that defines Kwanzaa in so many ways,” said Mr. Rhoze about the new display. He encouraged Evanstonians to stop by Fountain Square this week to see it for themselves.

“The first day of Kwanzaa. … We light the first candle, which is the black candle. It represents unity, and that’s what this is all about now. This is really about unity, and we have to keep marching into 2021 with that in mind. And with that we’ll overcome,” said Mr. Rhoze.

Dec. 26 was also the first day of Evanston’s Virtual Kwanzaa Celebration of Umoja from noon to 1 p.m. The virtual festival continues through Jan. 1. Each day, an Evanston family will present one of the six remaining principles: Kujichagulia (self-determination), Ujima (collective work and responsibility), Ujamaa (cooperative economics), Nia (purpose), Kuumba (creativity), and Imani (faith).

Community members can watch all segments of Evanston’s Kwanzaa celebration on Fleetwood-Jourdain Theatre’s Youtube Channel and Facebook.

Heidi Randhava

Heidi Randhava is an award winning reporter who has a deep commitment to community engagement and service. She has written for the Evanston RoundTable since 2016.