South Mississippians Celebrate Kwanzaa

Not all the celebrations of 2005 are over with yet. In fact, one has just begun.

Many African-Americans are celebrating Kwanzaa this week, including some South Mississippians at Little Rock Baptist Church in Gulfport Tuesday night. Dozens of people gathered in West Gulfport Tuesday night for Kwanzaa, a celebration of African-American culture.

"It starts the day after Christmas, 26th of December, and runs through January 1, and it's a time for remembering, reassessing and rejoicing, rejoicing in who we are as a people, remembering all of our ancestors, what they taught us and what they gave us," said Judy Lombard-Whitfield.

For 14 years, people of all races and religions have turned out to celebrate Kwanzaa in South Mississippi. This year, there were at least two new faces in the crowd--those of Wanda Bradley and her 5-year-old daughter, Krista.

"I'm out here to celebrate my heritage, and also to support the community. Little Rock is part of the community where I work, I am the principal at Gaston Point Elementary, and a lot of my children come to this church. So, I'm here for support, just to have a good time," Bradley said.

The crowd celebrated their heritage by lifting their voices in song and by discussing Kwanzaa symbols. The key speaker, a sixth generation Turkey Creek resident, talked about the importance of restoring and preserving African American communities.

"So, we're talking about in light of Katrina, how do we preserve our communities, some of our older homes, older churches that were damaged, what do we do to restore them, as well as what to do with so many people who have moved away," Lombard-Whitfield said.

As for Wanda Bradley, she says you can count on seeing her and Krista in the crowd next year because she plans to celebrate Kwanzaa and pass it down as a family tradition for generations to come.