YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Church leaders describe Ron and Lynette Miller as the godfather and godmother of Kwanzaa in Youngstown.
As coordinators of the local celebrations, they promote the importance of the holiday that honors African heritage.
“We should, as African-American people, understand our own experience and have something that speaks to that. And thus, Kwanzaa,” Ron Miller said.
Over the past 40 years, Kwanzaa celebrations in Youngstown have traditionally begun at New Bethel Baptist Church, where on Friday they were marking the first night of the holiday with music and dancing, cultural expressions and a community feast.
After recent civil unrest across the country, especially the riots in Ferguson, Mo., coordinators and church leaders said Kwanzaa is more relevant than ever.
“What we do want to do is take that energy, that frustration, and channel it in the right direction of how you make change. Not how you destroy your community, but how you change the system and then build your community,” said the Rev. Kenneth Simon of New Bethel Baptist Church.
“Right now, we’re feeling beat up, as a community, as a nation. We’re feeling like we don’t matter. And so, we’ve got to come together and be revitalized,” Lynette Miller said.
The community will gather at New Bethel not only for the traditional African music, but to discuss the state of the African-American community.
“We talk about who we are, where we’ve been, and where we’re going,” Lynette Miller said.
The people in charge of the Kwanzaa celebrations said it’s an example of the community continuing to embrace this African-American cultural holiday.