Kwanza 2017 honors two dynamic black women

Dr. Betty Shabazz, shown in this Jan. 25, 1997 file photo, died Monday, June 23, 1997. The widow of Malcolm X died after being burned over most of her body in a fire on June. 1, 1997, in Yonkers, New York.
Associated Press / Patrick J. Cunningham, File

Anticipation is at peak for the celebration of the 51st anniversary of Kwanza as well as the annual commemoration festivities held at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn. This year in particular, the seven principles will be explained, expressed and personified by tributes to two former educators who changed the curriculum establishing pride and ambition in Black history.

They nurtured the minds of the student body which was reportedly “90 percent Black and predominantly working-class, with an average age of 26.”

Black women made up most of the faculty, and 75 percent of the students were female, two-thirds of them mothers.

That the two were renowned females and leaders that impacted a broad community names the late Dr. Betty Shabazz and Dr. Mary Umolu are the 2017 celebrants to be acknowledge and revered on Dec. 16.

Both women inscribed indelible imprints on the City University system and particularly the Brooklyn institution which established itself as the first to be named for a Civil Rights leader and one that recruited minorities and Caribbean students seeking higher education in New York.

Shabazz, a mother of six daughters was also the widow of Malcolm X. After her husband was slain in Harlem Shabazz raised her daughters as a single parent and pursued higher education.

“She completed her undergraduate studies in one year, and decided to earn a master’s degree in health administration. In 1972, Shabazz enrolled at the University of Massachusetts to pursue a degree in higher education administration and curriculum development. For the next three years, she drove from Mount Vernon to Amherst, Massachusetts, every Monday morning, and returned home Wednesday night. In July 1975, she earned her doctorate.” Afterwards she taught at MEC.

“In January 1976, Shabazz became associate professor of health sciences with a concentration in nursing. In 1984, Shabazz was given a new title, director of Institutional Advancement and Public Affairs. She held that position at the college until her death. Shabazz died at age 63.

Dr. Umolu was professor and chair of the department of Mass Communication, Creative and Performing Arts and Speech at the college. Culturally committed to the African and Caribbean communities, she advanced the potential of educating a new generation about Black history and distinctly music. She was renowned for promoting jazz, the only uniquely American art form created in the 20th century. In her honor, the Jazzy Jazz Festival was renamed the Dr. Mary Umolu Jazzy Jazz Festival.

Hosted by The People of the Sun Middle Passage Collective, the annual Kwanza celebration is slated to begin at 6 pm and will feature spoken word, song, and dance.

Performances will feature Shanto, Ras Atiba and Sarabita World Reggae Band, Kowteff, and others.

Vendors who often provide unique Afro-centric gift items are expected to provide an array of items to purchase.

The celebration will be held in the Carroll Street gymnasium 1150 Carroll St.

Prior to the celebration, at 3:30 pm, the Collective will host the community outreach Feed the Need event. Food will be served and clothing and children’s gifts will be distributed. For more information, please contact program director Tony Akeem @718-659-4999 or email him at akeem[email protected]mail.com.

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