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On Nov. 4, the day America elected its first black president, Bryan resident Velma Spivey said she quietly went into her bedroom, recited a prayer and cried.
“It was a spiritual feeling for me,” she said.
This week, as she and others mark Kwanzaa — which is a celebration of history, culture and empowerment for blacks — the festivities have a more poignant feel, and the president-elect’s impending inauguration is at the forefront of thoughts for some.
Many view Obama as the epitome of unity and self-determination, two of Kwanzaa’s seven principles.
“Barack Obama symbolizes everything about hope and change,” said Gwendolyn Webb-Johnson, a professor at Texas A&M University who will hold a Kwanzaa get-together at her home Wednesday.
“This is the first time in [40 years] our media has been bombarded with images of a positive African-American.”
For Spivey, director of the Brazos Valley African American Museum, Kwanzaa is a time for blacks to rebuild their story, their history and to examine their own actions while creating bonds with one another. She hopes the celebration’s principles hold weight throughout the year.
Kwanzaa is celebrated from Dec. 26 to Jan 1. Each of the seven nights has a principle: unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith.
“We get together, we support, we love, we take care of each other, and we remember what our [ancestors] went through,” Spivey said. “We do that on a pretty regular basis. It’s not something that we have to do to prove anything to anybody.”
The celebration on the night of Webb-Johnson’s get-together will be creativity. It will share one thing in common with most Kwanzaa celebrations: There will be food — lots of it.
Chitterlings — the intestines and rectum of a pig — are eaten along with black-eyed peas, pound cake and more.
Each food item has a meaning. Webb-Johnson admits chitterlings are “kind of stinky.” Often, that was the only part of the pig remaining for slaves to eat.
Her kids, now in their late 20s, would never dream of swallowing them. But Webb-Johnson makes sure they at least help prepare them.
“It’s a remembrance,” she said. “At one time, this was a way our community sustained ourselves.”
But as they exchange stories this week, laugh, recall their challenges and confront those that lie ahead, Webb-Johnson said, she senses more optimism.
Black kids now have a monumental role model, she said. It’s now cool to wear collared shirts and dress like Obama.
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Copyright (c) 2008, The Eagle, Bryan, Texas

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