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Celebrating unity, love and Kwanzaa

By Tariqah Shakir-Muhammad -The Final Call- | Last updated: Jan 4, 2017 - 2:35:48 PM

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Entrepreneurs and artists expressing their talent and appreciation for Black businesses. The gymnasium at Muhammad University of Islam was packed with Black vendors and business owners as customers purchased items during a community Kwanzaa celebration on the city’s South Side. Photos: Haroon Rajaee, Photo: Richard B. Muhammad

(L) Cassiopeia Sledge (right) showcasing a kinara, a traditional candleholder used in celebrating Kwanzaa. (R) Performers and motivational speakers elaborate on what Kwanzaa and buying Black means to them and for the community.

CHICAGO—In celebration of Kwanzaa, artists of various talents, vendors, entrepreneurs, and motivational speakers collaborated for the final days of December and first day of January.

From 4 p.m. to 10 p.m., Muhammad University of Islam, on the grounds of the headquarters of the Nation of Islam, was filled with hundreds of shoppers and vendors exploring businesses and talents as well as enjoying each other’s company.

Jewelry, paintings, clothing, body lotions and creams, hair products, perfumes and cologne, shoes, books and more were available. M.U.I’s cafeteria was transformed into a food court with home-baked goods, vegan and vegetarian dishes. 

Dinah Judah Peterson, one of many vendors, was selling natural bath and beauty products. She was very enthusiastic to promote her business in an atmosphere specifically focusing on Black entrepreneurship. Her line of products, “House of Judah,” features blended, natural ingredients for the skin, crocheted jewelry and hats, and handcrafted jewelry.

African-themed jewelry was very popular throughout the event, often featuring uniquely-designed pieces that embraced the beauty and fashions of Black women.

Customers and attendees were reminded of a similar experience during Black Friday when Cassiopeia Sledge of led an evening of buying Black. The Dec. 29 event at M.U.I. was devoted to the principle of “cooperative economics,” one of the seven cardinal principles of the Kwanzaa holiday. TeQuila Shabazz, of the BRIJ Embassy and a proponent of Black buying, strategic spending and community development, was the emcee for most of the evening. The event was also a project of the Justice Or Else! Local Organizing Committee in Chicago and its focus on Black economic empowerment and Black unity.

The next day Black entrepreneurs and vendors, some from M.U.I, gathered at Chicago State University to further promote businesses and another Kwanzaa celebration.

“Kwanzaa means family, bringing the community together,” Menretui, another vendor who offers natural hair and body products, told The Final Call. “We’re supporting Black businesses you know, so that’s good. It’s bringing unity, everyone coming together to support the children, performers, the elders—you know, who work so hard to put the show on. We’re now passing it on to the next generation which is a great thing.”

“I think around Christmas time, for some people, it’s about Christmas and Santa, when it’s really about the birth of Jesus Christ,” said Karen Bellamy, an author of children’s books. “I think, for Black people, when you get together and see the love for each other and the creativity of our people, I think it’s important to have that.”

On the final day of December, a dance benefit and remembrance of Niambi Turiya Ingram was held in Sherman Park. Ms. Ingram, who died several years ago, was remembered as a “pillar in the community for a very long time.” African and Caribbean dance performances and classes were held in honor of her legacy of dance and of helping others.