The usual drumming at the Israel Lovell Foundation in My Lord’s Hill, St Michael, was Monday night punctuated with laughter, children’s happy squeals, and odes to ancestors, as Barbadians and visitors gathered to observe Ujima.
Patrons, including Member of Parliament Trevor Prescod and Cuban Ambassador Francisco Pena, had come together to experience this day in Kwanzaa and revel in the community-spirit of Africans.
Ujima is one of the seven principles of Kwanzaa observed over the seven days with a standard for each day of this 50-year-old celebration that comes immediately
Ujima, the third-day celebration, speaks to the collective work and responsibility of persons to build and maintain the community together, and to make problems of sisters and brothers the difficulties of all and solve them together.
“It’s just a free evening in the community. Young, old mixing dancing and chanting. And we all brought a dish,” explained Ujima celebrations organizer Michael Slocombe.
“We have people from the Pan-African Commission, Israel Lovell Foundation, Haynesville Youth Group . . . . We get together to try and solve and resolve.”
People moved about in harmony at the My Lord’s Hill centre to the synchronized drumbeat, chatting as children ran around and between just about everything and everybody. Throughout the evening, persons trooped in with food items to be deposited on a central serving table before joining the assembly.
“As Africans we should come together and celebrate things that are African. This evening is to bring some of the community groups together and ensure that we take forward the culture. That means not just stuff that was developed in the continent, but stuff that was developed here in Barbados,” Slocombe said, adding: “This evening is to bring the group together to see if we have any common issues, and to see if we can collectively resolve them.”
The organizer explained that in true community spirit the celebration did not place tiring duty on anyone to make the event a success.
“The sharing of the food is community [living]. Everybody is bringing a dish so that the burden does not fall on one person . . . . Everybody shares.
“Also today we’re meeting new people; building new relationships and connections. That doesn’t mean it’s all hunky-dory and cozy; we are opening the doors to a collective community.”
Pan-Africanist Onkphra Wells told the children of the ways of Africans, and elder Babu John conducted a libation as people in the gathering uttered the names of outstanding ancestors.
Rhythms of the African drums dominated proceedings.
“From a community standpoint, drum is central. The heartbeat of Africa is drumming. Dance would be the blood that makes it flow. So any time you get a group of people together of African descent, there should be some form of drumming. I think the drumming if is the heartbeat of us,” said Solcombe who is also a drumming teacher at the Israel Lovell Foundation.