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Askari T. Sowonde Presents Vallejo’s Annual Kwanzaa Celebration, Dec. 28

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One of Vallejo’s annual community Kwanzaa celebrations, and the largest, will be celebrated on Saturday, December 28th at the Vallejo Naval and Historical Museum, 734 Marin St., from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. The event will be presented by Askari T. Sowonde, who has coordinated the presentation for the past 19 years.

Kwanzaa is a week-long annual celebration held in the United States and other nations of the African diaspora in the Americas, to honor African heritage in African-American culture. It is observed from Dec. 26th to January 1st, culminating in gift-giving and a feast. Kwanzaa has seven core principles (Nguzo Saba), created by Maulana Karenga, and was first celebrated in 1966.

“I originally began the Kwanzaa celebration in my home and I did it for six years,” said Sowonde. “After that, I was approached by a friend who suggested that I offer the celebration to the entire community. Thus began this celebration where hundreds of Vallejo residents participate and join in the festivities.”

“I’m a grass-roots sista who has coordinated events in the community for years, providing local entertainment and educational activities for the community,” noted Sowonde. “Even though this event is not sponsored by the city financially, I’m able to provide programs such as this one through prayer and from the help of people who believe in what I’m doing.”

“This year however, because we are using a venue that is operated by the city, we will be charging $5 for youths and $10 for adults to attend,” Sowande said. “It’s actually a donation with proceeds going to support the cost of presenting Kwanzaa, and to the museum.”

“We will have speakers, entertainment, drummers and lighting of the candles by our youths,: noted Sowonde.  “Our theme is ‘Where Are We,’ which speaks to what is happening in the Black community.”

Notably, the Vallejo Kwanzaa will honor people who have given selflessly of themselves to benefit the communities they live in. Those honorees include: Philip “Maui Phil” Wilson, Miss Myla J, The MLK Project, Unite Vallejo (Keyauna Morris) and Eloise Quinn from the NAACP.

In addition to the lighting of the candles, there will be presentations by Distinctive Design, Semaj the Poet, Matthew McCain-Praise Dance, Sharon B-Steel Pan Drummer and a fashion show by Norahs Khan.

The theme speaks to a number of murders of youths in our community by police officers,” said Sowonde.  “The last murder was Willie McCoy, who was killed while he was asleep in his car at a Taco Bell restaurant. And there was Eric Reason who was shot in the back of the head while fleeing from a plain-clothes police officer. This has to stop.”

“We, as a people in the community, are outraged,” said Sowonde. “One of our speakers, Kori McCoy, the brother of Willie McCoy, will be speaking about the plight his family has endured and what has transpired since losing his brother.”

“We were warriors in Africa, and we’ve come to a point where we are standing up and saying ‘no more.’  That’s what this is about.  To educate, have fun, and talk about us as a proud Black people. It is what is reflected in this year’s poster…Blackness and Kwanzaa.”

For more information about the Kwanzaa celebration, contact Mz. Sowonde at 707.712.3699 or via email at iamblessed3204@comcast.net.

Art

MC Arts Gallery Opens During the Marin Open Studio

The Gallery and its website display the art of a number of Black artists which includes: TheArthur Wright, Lumumba Edwards, and Maalak Atkins. Zwanda and Mitchell Howard also display their art at the Gallery. 

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From top: Oshalla Marcus (director/curator, MC Arts & Culture) with Osiezhe’s drawings to the right of the photo, Zwanda, Mitchell Howard , ISOJI’s Art Is Health Band: Carlton Carey (drums), Mwanza Furaha, (vocals), Jack Prendergast (bass), Ricardo Moncrief (keyboard), James Moseley (guitar, vocal). Photos by Godfrey Lee.

The MC Arts Gallery, located on 100 Donahue St. in the Gateway Shopping Center in Marin City, is open during the Marin Open Studios, which took place on Saturday and Sunday, May 1 & 2. 

The Gallery and its website display the art of a number of Black artists which includes: The Arthur Wright, Lumumba Edwards, and Maalak Atkins. Zwanda and Mitchell Howard also display their art at the Gallery. 

Zwanda seeks to be creative as she expands her ideas as a sculptress and painter. She is inspired by the human figure and dancers and is fascinated with music and the instruments themselves. Her art is a way to express this love and to share it with others.

Mitchell Howard studied art at San Francisco State University and the Computer Arts Institute of San Francisco. He was an art director at Cummingham & Walsh in San Francisco and has displayed his paintings at the Hannah Gallery, worked on the Rocky Graham Park Mural and has taught art at the Martin Luther King Jr. Academy Elementary School.

“Art can bring people together and illustrate things that people can relate to,” Howard says. “Art can also be powerful in sending social messages to society. Art makes you think, it expands your horizons and makes you use your imagination. People may see different things in the same painting.”

Osiezhe, Shakira Gregory’s son, will be displaying his drawings at the Gallery.

The ISOJI’s Art Is Health Band played last Saturday afternoon with Mwanza Furaha as their guest vocalist.

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City Council Approves $480,000 in Arts Grants

The city made the announcement Tuesday about the grants, which will support 772 distinct arts events and activities that will expose more than 110,000 participants to cultural programming.

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The Oakland City Council approved $480,000 in grants to 17 Oakland-based non-profit organizations and 20 individual artists through the city’s Cultural Funding Program, Neighborhood Voices.

The city made the announcement Tuesday about the grants, which will support 772 distinct arts events and activities that will expose more than 110,000 participants to cultural programming.

The grant program seeks to bring Oaklanders together to create and support a sense of belonging within a community, to foster social connections that lift people’s spirits, to encourage community well-being and offer visions for a collective future, according to the announcement.

The following individual artists each won $7,000 Neighborhood Voices awards:

Frederick Alvarado; Karla Brundage; Cristina Carpio; Darren Lee Colston; Maria De La Rosa; Elizabeth D. Foggie; Rachel-Anne Palacios; Laurie Polster; Hasain Rasheed; Kweku Kumi Rauf; Carmen Roman; Michael Roosevelt; Fernando Santos; Teofanny Octavia Saragi; Kimberly Sims-Battiste; Cleavon Smith; Lena Sok; Babette Thomas; Ja Ronn Thompson; Joseph Warner.

Each of the following organizations received $20,000 Neighborhood Voices awards:

Asian Health Services for Banteay Srei;

Beats Rhymes and Life;

Chapter 510 INK;

Dancers Group for dNaga GIRL Project;

Dancers Group for Dohee Lee Puri Arts;

Dancers Group for Grown Women Dance Collective;

East Oakland Youth Development Center;

Higher Gliffs for Endangered Ideas;

Hip Hop for Change;

Junior Center of Art and Science;

Mycelium Youth Network;

Oakland Education Fund for Youth Beat;

Oakland Theater Project, Inc.;

Sarah Webster Fabio Center for Social Justice;

The Intersection for Alphabet Rockers;

Women’s Audio Mission;

Youth Radio/YR Media.

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Student Work – Nayzeth Vargas

There is freedom with the Zentangle; there is no expected visual outcome and students are less prone to creative blocks and self-criticism. 

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This piece was created by Nayzeth Vargas, a senior at Oakland Technical High School. The Zentangle Method is a therapeutic technique which uses combinations of contrasting patterns and values to create an image. Students were introduced to the Zentangle Method to offset the mental stress they were experiencing due to the COVID-19 pandemic and social isolation.  

There is freedom with the Zentangle; there is no expected visual outcome and students are less prone to creative blocks and self-criticism. 

Nayzeth is enrolled in the West Oakland Legacy and Leadership Project, an integrated arts program that supports youth in developing thoughtful, educated voices for their communities. Though art, youth practice mindfulness and boundless creativity. Enrollment for the West Oakland Legacy and Leadership Project is open to youth ages 13-18 through AHC, for more information visit ahc-oakland.org/legacy.

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