On the first day of Kwanzaa, Umoja (Unity) was celebrated with acts of community and togetherness, as more than 1,200 viewers tuned in to watch the live stream events that began at 12 p.m. on Dec. 26 with the lighting of the outdoor kinara display at Evanston’s Fountain Square. “Seven Spools of Thread: A Kwanzaa Story and Festival Celebration,” presented by Fleetwood-Jourdain Theatre and Evanston Public Library, was broadcast live at 2 p.m. from the Robert Crown Community Center.

Kara Roseborough performs at the kinara candle-lighting ceremony. (Photo: Heidi Randhava) Credit: Heidi Randhava

A dance performance by Kara Roseborough of Evanston added special meaning to the kinara candle-lighting ceremony, where the first candle, a black candle representing unity, was lit. Fleetwood-Jourdain Theatre Artistic Director Tim Rhoze read the seven Kwanzaa principles: Umoja (Unity), Kujichagulia (self-determination), Ujima (collective work and responsibility), Ujamaa (cooperative economics), Nia (purpose), Kuumba (creativity) and Imani (faith).

The ceremony marked the first anniversary of the unveiling of the outdoor Kwanzaa kinara display created by Evanston-based artist Eric Beauchamp. The giant lighted kinara is on display each year, from Dec. 26 through the last day of Kwanzaa, Jan. 1.

In the days leading up to the holiday, Fleetwood-Jourdain Theatre volunteers and community partners pulled together to quickly shift from the planned in-person Kwanzaa festival at Robert Crown Community Center to a live stream event. The decision was made based on the increase in COVID-19 cases and recommendations from the City of Evanston’s Health and Human Services Department.

Drummer Ozivell Ecford (left) and storyteller Dr. Stephanie Davenport. (Photo: Heidi Randhava)

In addition to music, dance, drumming, poetry and storytelling, the virtual festival showcases the tradition of recognizing Evanston’s Black elders for their many years of contributing to the community. This year’s Legacy of Cultural Excellence Award recipients were Colette Allen, Dr. Larry Murphy and Dr. Jean Murphy.

It is not too late to watch a recording of the Kwanzaa kinara lighting at Fountain Square and “Seven Spools of Thread: A Kwanzaa Story and Festival Celebration.” View the recorded live broadcast of the lighting of the Kwanzaa Kinara at Fountain Square.

YouTube video

View the recorded “live” broadcast of the Seven Spools of Thread: A Kwanzaa Story and Festival Celebration from the Robert Crown Community Center.

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.