For over forty years, St. John the Evangelist Lutheran Church has celebrated an early Kwanzaa that is open to all in the neighborhood. This year their early Kwanzaa celebration happened on December 13th and was named in honor of Mildred Tudy Johnston. “We have always done it early so we don’t impact on the family Kwanzaas,” said David Dobosz who has helped to organize Kwanzaa at St. John’s since its start.
Mildred Tudy Johnston was an indisputable choice in having this Kwanzaa named for her as she served the community since she moved to Cooper Houses in 1953. She was a
devoted teacher and activist for fairness, equality, child welfare and lived by the example of her motto,“If you are not part of the solution, then you are part of the problem!” She was active in finding many solutions up until she passed away earlier this year.
Sonny Causey officiated and wore a kaftan emblazoned with the colors of Kwanzaa: black, red, and green. He stood behind a table arrayed with the symbols of the holiday: the mat, the crops, the corn, the candle holder with the seven candles, and the unity cup.
After the anthem was sung, Marquis, Aidan, and Cheyenne came up to light the candles and answer questions. Traditionally one candle is lit on each day of Kwanzaa. On this special celebration they light all seven but separately acknowledge each one. With the candles all lit, it was then time for the Unity Cup — where water from one cup was poured into another after a name of an ancestor or honored person who had passed away was spoken. Names such as Mildred Tudy Johnston, Maya Angelou, Ruby Dee, Michael Jackson, Eric Garner, and Michael Brown were spoken.
The ceremony was followed by a plentiful meal, music, and zawadi or gifts. The gifts were placed on tables for the taking. Some neighbors came by to leave some gifts as is also the custom. Kwanzaa begins on December 26th and ends on January 1st.