On Dec. 30 the fifth principle of Kwanzaa is celebrated. On this day when friends gathered to light the second red candle there was a celebration at the August Wilson Center for African-American Culture, an artistic tribute to the Multicultural Arts Initiative.

A TREE CANNOT STAND WITHOUT ROOTS (AFRICA)—Oliver Byrd, Valerie AdendjI Lawrence, Peggy Harris.(Photos by Debbie Norrell)

MCAI Board members, program officers and staff were honored for their dedication to the arts. These committed men and women received awards for their efforts that have stabilized many arts organizations. Over the past two decades MCAI has awarded more than $7 million to small and midsized arts organizations, individual artists and festivals.

In the beautiful space of the AWC they were celebrated. First with a meet and greet reception where the sweet music of Nelson Harrison, Ph.D., and the Kwanzaa Jazz Ensemble was enjoyed. Following the reception was an evening of Kwanzaa Elegance with so many of the accomplished artists affiliated with MCAI. The program was hosted by Lynne Hayes-Freeland, Valerie Adendji Lawrence and Temujin the Story Teller.

Featured artists included: Vanessa German, Women of Visions, Afrika Yetu, Balafon West African Dance Ensemble, Legacy Arts Project, Shona Sharif African Dance Ensemble, Umoja African Arts Company, Wacongo Dance Company, Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre Company, Kuntu Reportory Theatre, Ahveekhy and The Afro-American Music Institute.

The program also featured a “living” kinara with young men as the candle holders of the seven candles representing each day of Kwanzaa. Elie Kihonia, president of Afrika Yetu Inc. says, “the Multicultural Arts Initiative has left an imprint on our lives, and as they exit stage left, we give them a standing ovation for their contributions.”

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