In Council News, Featured, Gallery, Jamie Gauthier, Kendra Brooks by Kendra Brooks

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PHILADELPHIA – On Thursday, Councilmember Kendra Brooks (At-Large) introduced the first kinara to be publicly displayed by the City of Philadelphia. The kinara sculpture, an original piece of artwork created by Maisha Sullivan-Ongoza of the Kwanzaa Cooperative, stands over ten feet tall and will be displayed at the southwest corner of City Hall during the seven days of Kwanzaa (December 26-January 1).

“We have been celebrating Kwanzaa here in Philadelphia for over fifty years, thanks to the great work of Mama Maisha and the Kwanzaa Cooperative,” said Councilmember Kendra Brooks. “This year for the first time, with the help of Visit Philadelphia, Welcome America, and the Department of Parks and Recreation, we will be bringing Kwanzaa to the heart of our city with a beautiful kinara sculpture for all to enjoy. I hope families will take advantage of the many opportunities through the Free Library, the African American Museum in Philadelphia, and other organizations to celebrate and embrace the love, the perseverance, and the hope that Kwanzaa represents.”

Maisha Sullivan-Ongoza has created hundreds of kinaras by hand. Most of the smaller kinaras grace the homes of African American families who celebrate Kwanzaa each year, while the larger sculptures have been installed in cities across the country, including New York City and Detroit. For years, she has advocated for her home city of Philadelphia to display a public kinara, and she found an enthusiastic partner in Councilmember Brooks.

On the first day of Kwanzaa, Tuesday December 26 at 12pm, Philadelphians and visitors are welcome to join the ceremonial lighting of the kinara’s black candle, which symbolizes “umoja” or unity of the people. The ceremony will feature remarks by Maisha Sullivan-Ongoza, as well as a performance of “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”

The announcement took place in the main lobby of the Free Library of Philadelphia, which has hosted Kwanzaa programming for years and is offering multiple Kwanzaa-themed events this season. Representatives from the Kwanzaa Cooperative, Visit Philly, Welcome America, the Department of Parks and Recreation, and the African American Museum in Philadelphia joined Councilmember Brooks and her colleagues to acknowledge and celebrate this step forward for Philadelphia. Chris Miller, the Executive Vice President of the African American Museum in Philadelphia, shared a calendar of family-friendly events taking place throughout the seven days of Kwanzaa.

“Storytelling is a fundamental thread woven into the fabric of Kwanzaa and African American culture,” said Kelly Richards, President and Director of the Free Library of Philadelphia. “It serves as a conduit for preserving, sharing, and celebrating the richness and diversity of experiences and values that define our community.”

“Through the Philly Holiday Experience, Welcome America, Inc. takes great pride in celebrating a variety of winter holidays, including Kwanzaa,” said Michael DelBene, President and CEO of Welcome America, Inc. “It is important that Philadelphians and visitors from all backgrounds and cultures see themselves represented in programming and events. Welcome America, Inc. is proud to be a part of bringing the kinara to such an iconic and central location as City Hall.”

“Philadelphia’s first-ever public kinara affirms the history and perseverance of Black Philadelphians while educating residents and visitors from across the world about this holiday’s seven principles,” Councilmember Jamie Gauthier (3rd District) said. “I am grateful to Councilmember Kendra Brooks, the Kwanzaa Cooperative, Visit Philadelphia, Welcome America, the Free Library, and the Philadelphia Department of Parks and Recreation for giving Kwanzaa its rightful public place among the many holidays celebrated in our diverse city!”

In addition to Councilmember Gauthier, Councilmember-elect Rue Landau and Councilmember-elect Jeffrey Young shared their support for public art that affirms and elevates Philadelphia’s many cultural traditions and helps to promote Philadelphia as an inclusive and welcoming city.

In City Council on Thursday, Councilmember Brooks also introduced a resolution “congratulating the Kwanzaa Cooperative for inaugurating the first City Kinara in Philadelphia history and for organizing Kwanzaa programming at the Free Library to uphold the traditions of Kwanzaa in Philadelphia for years to come.” The resolution passed unanimously.


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