by Art Slater
Photos by Hilary Brown
The Anacostia Coordinating Council (ACC) held its Annual 2014 Holiday Celebration on December 2, 2014 at the Anacostia Playhouse. In spite of a cool, damp night, hundreds of guests filled with holiday spirit provided hundreds of gifts to help us support the Metropolitan Police Department’s Seventh District (7D) 45th Annual Holiday Party for Youth.
Festive decorations adorned the Anacostia Playhouse lobby reception area as holiday music and conversation filled the air. ACC Chairperson Arrington Dixon and Executive Director Philip Pannell greeted guests and invited them to join in the annual affair catered this night by Imani Catering.
Executive Director Philip Pannell turned to ceremonial duties of emceeing of the event and announced the overview and purpose of the celebration, that is, to present gifts for Ward 8 youth on behalf of MPD 7D within the spirit of the December celebrations of Hannukah, Christmas and Kwanzaa. Chairperson Arrington Dixon also gave a brief welcome to the audience.
A bit more gift-giving was in store as Mr. Dixon presented Anacostia Playhouse CEO and host Adele Robey with a small token of ACC’s appreciation for usage of the Playhouse. Not long from there, the audience led a rendition of Happy Birthday to Chairman Dixon, whose birthday was to come the following day.
In the first presentation of honoring holiday celebrations, U.S. Coast Guard Lieutenant Commander Jonathan Schafler explained the history behind the celebration of Hannukah and the lighting of the menorah, which represents the victory of the Jews against Hellenistic forces that attempted to restrict their religious freedoms. During Hannukah, the lighting of candles over an eight day period is a symbolic representation of a single day’s amount fuel oil that lasted for eight days. Schafler explained that in his family he was fortunate enough to receive gifts on Christmas as well.
Next on the program, Mr. Pannell introduced the presenters of the Kwanzaa celebration.
Charles Lindsay, the Ward 8 Councilmember’s chief of staff, delivered a simple, poignant tribute in remembrance of his mentor, steward of Ward 8 and of the District of Columbia, the late Honorable Marion Barry, in the context of Kwanzaa principle Umoja, meaning unity. He recalled how Marion Barry inspired him and provided hope to thousands of District residents, and was a leader who symbolized Ward 8 unity after joining the struggle for civil rights to help in the development of the District of Columbia into a more independent, integral unit after Home Rule.
Denise Rolark Barnes, publisher of the Washington Informer newspaper, delivered the principle Kujichagulia or self-determination, in the context of her father, the late community leader and publisher Dr. Calvin Rolark and shared how he instilled in her and in the community consciousness many rhetorical maxims that embody this Kwanzaa principle. One saying many readers may remember is: “I love life and I want to live!”, since we understand that loving the life in oneself is the starting point for the determination to build a foundation for a life for oneself and others.
Dionne Reeder, executive director of the Far Southeast Family Strengthening Collaborative, expressed the meaning of the principle of Ujima, that is, collective work and responsibility and the role this concept plays in the community, society and the world. From daily work in Collaborative she leads, Reeder spoke from experience on how people working together delivers continual community benefits.
Stan Jackson, of the Anacostia Economic Development Corporation, gave his insightful take on Ujamaa, or cooperative economics that encourages the pooling of collective economic strength in service to community growth, recalling Marion Barry’s Summer Youth Jobs Program that led to community empowerment.
Connie Spinner, executive director of the Community College Preparatory Academy in Anacostia, enlightened the audience as educator on the principle of Nia that asks us to look within ourselves and set personal goals that benefit the community. To that end, Ms. Spinner stressed the supreme value of giving the gift of one’s time to others as an enduring legacy to a single individual and to future generations.
Tendani Mpulubusi-El, as Ward 8 representative to the DC Council on the Arts, emphasized the importance of furthering the arts in the lives of our youth in his delivery of Kuumba, the principle of creativity in service of building and maintaining a strong, vibrant community. Not only must our youth appreciate and be consumers of music, dance, theater and other artistic expressions, Tendani reminds us and our youth that we must also learn to become producers, entrepreneurs and artisans, befitting a people whose will to survive and thrive has arisen partly from its need to express its abundant creativity through adversity as well as through the joy of living.
Rev. Anthony J. Motley, director of Inner Thoughts, Inc., appropriately, provided the final Kwanzaa principle of Imani or faith, the principle that exhorts us to honor our traditions, draw from our best strengths to strive for the benefit of humankind, and to affirm our self-worth and confidence in our ability to succeed and triumph in righteous struggle.
Continuing in the African-inspired portion of the program thus far, Melvin Deal poured a traditional libation to bless the event, and he along with his African Dancers and Drummers invited those in the audience to flow with the rhythms and movements from traditions deeply rooted in the earth and of our ancestors. The troupe brought creative gifts of Africa to set before us for our enjoyment.
To bring us fully into the Christmas section of the program, Colin Hovde, Producing Artistic Director of the Theater Alliance, the resident artistic production hub of the Anacostia Playhouse, asked the audience and the community at large to continue to support the arts and previewed the upcoming theater season. As an incentive, the Theater Alliance will be offering a group of tickets for each of its productions throughout the season at “subversive pricing”, which is to say, at a price chosen by the ticket-buyer, from $1 to $100 or beyond: your choice! With that introduction, Hovde led to the stage cast members from the Alliance’s production of Langston Hughes’ Black Nativity, directed by Eric Ruffin, choreographed by Princess Mhoon, with e’Marcus Harper-Short, musical director. Within a few bars of a capella singing, a perennial African-American tradition came to life, filling the hall with the joy of human voices in harmony, if only long enough to tempt you to hear the full performance which debuts on December 11, 2014 at the Anacostia Playhouse (http://www.anacostiaplayhouse.com).
Mr. Pannell called MPD 7D Commander Robin Hoey to the stage. Cmdr. Hoey accepted the gifts brought by the attendees of this night's celebration in the spirit of holiday giving. Cmdr. Hoey thanked ACC, well-wishers and all those who dropped by Anacostia Playhouse on a cold winter’s day to help warm the hearts of children in Ward 8.
As 7D’s finest hauled away the four large red-bowed boxes brimming with gifts, they did so knowing that the community brought the village to the children so that they might enjoy this life-affirming time of year, whether they celebrate Hannukah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, or one and all!
We thank our event sponsors:
Andy Shallal of Busboys and Poets ∙ Far Southeast Family Strengthening Collaborative ∙ Washington Informer Charities ∙ WeAct Radio ∙ Anacostia Improvement District ∙ The Coca-Cola Company
∙ Anacostia Playhouse and you, our guests who gave of their time, presence and gifts to join us for Ward 8 youth!
To keep on giving, bring a youth and attend the MPD Seventh District’s 45th Annual Holiday for Youth, Wednesday, December 17th 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. at the Panorama Room, Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church, 1600 Morris Road, SE. For more information, contact Lendia Johnson, MPD 7D Community Outreach Coordinator, at (202) 698-1454.