Kwanzaa, which means "first fruits of the harvest," is celebrated from Dec. 26th to Jan., 1st annually, with the purpose of honoring, acknowledging and saluting African-American heritage.
Created by Dr. Ron Karenga, the holiday was first observed from Dec. 26, 1966 to Jan. 1, 1967. An emphasis is put on the Seven Principles of Kwanzaa (Nguzo Saba) – Umoja (oo-MOE-jah), Kujichagulia (koo-jee-cha-goo-LEE-ah), Ujima (oo-JEE-mah), Ujamaa (oo-JAH-mah), Nia (nee-AH), Kuumba (koo-OOM-bah) and Imani (ee-MAH-nee).
As Kwanzaa has aged, the celebration has grown, with a number of ceremonies and events now offered throughout Greater Memphis. Two groups – Memphis Kwanzaa International and Mid-South Kwanzaa Incorporated – provide seven days of events.
On Saturday (Dec. 21st), an array of government officials, industry officials and local and national recording artists are expected to help the family of Curtis Lee Braxton say farewell to the man many knew as an accomplished performer, recording artist, band director, voice-over artist and radio personality.
Known as Captain Curtis Lee, Mr. Braxton died Dec. 11 after a brief illness. He was 69.
Services for Mr. Lee will be at 11 a.m. Saturday at Greater Mt. Moriah Missionary Baptist Church located at 1072 South Wellington. The wake will be from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Friday at Superior Funeral Home's south location at 460 E. McLemore.
(Just as a neighborhood should not be judged by the actions of a few bad apples, neither should law enforcement agencies. In partnership with the new Community Police Relations Project, The New Tri-State Defender's "Good Blue" column spotlights law enforcement officers who do it right. This week's focus is on Officer April Colbert of the Memphis Police Department.)
Officer April Colbert, a member of the Memphis Police Department Airways Station since 2011, is soft-spoken yet fiercely determined to bring people together. Born on Chicago's Southside, she moved to Memphis at age 13 with her mother, brother and sister. Hers is not a story of a youngster who grew up wanting to become a police officer.
An East High School graduate (1998), Colbert said her journey to the police force was inspired by a strange exchange between her and a Memphis police officer who had just given her a $200-plus speeding ticket. I recently caught up with Officer Colbert at a coffee shop off Walnut Grove and Tillman for this "Good Blue" conversation.
Mathieu White and Tamaira Ballard were among the Memphis high school students who targeted the Youth Congress Day Luncheon as the place to be last week to gain first-hand experience in lawmaking.
The luncheon (Dec. 11), which had students taking on the roles of state senators and representatives, was coordinated by the National Black Caucus of State Legislators, which hosted its 37th annual Legislative Conference at The Peabody last week.
The four-day conference, whose theme was "Progress: Moving Our States Forward Through Policy Action," centered on presentations and discussions addressing current legislative issues in our community.
Their numbers were few, but spirits were high as Memphis United Coalition members took to the streets Tuesday (Dec. 17) to protest what Mid-South Peace and Justice Center Organizing Director Brad Watkins called "a disturbing trend of harassment and misconduct among Memphis police officers."
"The homeless and groups of young African Americans are being singled out by law enforcement for arrests, illegal searches for no cause and other forms of misconduct in the community," Watkins said.
A related gathering took root early that afternoon at St. Patrick's Catholic Church on Fourth Street downtown. Homeless advocates and a legal representative conducted workshops where attendees were given some direct advice. They were told that citizens have the right to record or photograph any incident involving themselves or others when trying to document civil rights violations or illegal actions by law enforcement.