, Port Arthur, Texas

Port Arthur

December 31, 2013

Outreach center gives gift of school supplies on Kwanzaa

PORT ARTHUR — The mistletoe is wilting, the ornaments collecting dust in the attic — all that remains of Christmas cheer are refrigerators stocked with leftover turkey and heaps of shiny new toys.

But spirits were still buoyed at the Willie G. Carter Outreach Center, 548 W. 11th St., on Monday. Black, red and green candles gleamed from a table at the front of the room as volunteer Rosa Guidry explained the meaning of the myriad Kwanzaa decorations to a group of Port Arthur children.

“This is used for libation,” Guidry said, gesturing to the wooden unity cup used in an ancestral ritual, “and this is our flag — red, black and green.”

Monday marked the fifth day of Kwanzaa, a week-long celebration designed for African-Americans to reconnect with their ethnic heritage. The holiday is predicated on seven principles, with one day set aside for each of them.

Although Kwanzaa is celebrated primarily by African-Americans, its principles are universal, executive director Johnny Hulin said.

“Our main focus is, ‘Can I be a little bit better?’” he said.

 The fifth principle of Kwanzaa is “Nia,” Swahili for “purpose.” Hulin and the rest of the event’s organizers used the term to illustrate the importance of a quality education, which will lay the foundation for finding one’s purpose in life.

“Education is key,” Guidry said. “People say it’s expensive to go to college, but I’ll tell you what — ignorance is even more expensive.

“Telling you these things about Kwanzaa is one thing,” she added. “But I challenge you to find out why for yourself. That’s going to stick with you forever.”

After the conclusion of the event’s entertainment — which consisted of a traditional dance, a flute production of “Kum Ba Ya” and one family’s song — three University of Houston alumnae spoke about their collegiate experience and the benefits gained from it.

“You can’t buy the things you learn in college anywhere else,” Jonay Hulin said. The 24-year-old Port Arthur native graduated Dec. 20 with her bachelor’s degree in corporate communications.

Each child left the program with a brand-new bag of school supplies to start the second half of the 2013-14 academic year.

“We wanted the gift to be educational and cultural, to give our kids a fresh start to go back to school,” Johnny Hulin said. “Because Kwanzaa is not a commercial holiday, our kids are our number one priority.”


Twitter: @ErinnPA

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