The Lyric Theatre Helps Bring Kwanzaa Home

Donna Ison


Creativity is the sixth principle of Kwanzaa, a holiday created by Dr. Maulana Karenga in 1966 as a way to reinforce the African-American community and honor African heritage. Creativity is also the cornerstone of the Lyric Theatre & Cultural Arts Center, whose mission is to “preserve, promote, present, and celebrate diverse cultures through artistic presentations of the highest quality, educational programming and outreach, film, and opportunities for community inclusion.” 

Even in the midst of COVID-19, The Lyric is determined to continue this mission. According to Executive Director Whit Whitaker, “For the Lyric Theatre’s future, I see us rising from the ashes, yet again, in an effort of creating a new normal for our supporters and patrons that includes virtual and hybrid-virtual program offerings in our endeavor to continue to serve the community and the arts. There is a new normal and we hope to contribute and make the transition into this new reality one that will continue to support the community’s needs and desires to engage one another and embrace the arts.”

One of the ways the Lyric is continuing to serve is with the Family Art Memories (FAM) program, which allows families to pick up free take-home packages stocked with a seasonal art activity and hot cocoa or hot apple cider as well as special add-ons from Black Soil: Our Better Nature. Black Soil is an organization dedicated to reconnecting Black Kentuckians to “their legacy and heritage in agriculture.” For December, the FAM packets will focus on Kwanzaa. The Lyric also hopes to create a virtual program centered around Kwanzaa to promote further engagement. 

During Kwanzaa — a name derived from the Swahili for “first fruits” — families celebrate the seven principles (Nguzo Saba), which include unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith. Celebrations are unique to each household but often include singing, drumming, dancing, storytelling, poetry reading, and dining. On each of the seven nights, a candle is lit from the kinara and the accompanying principle is discussed. On December 31, the family holds a traditional feast called the karamu. 

For Whitaker, Kwanzaa is a time for “centering of the soul and spirit” and an opportunity to “fully engage with the family and community in the true nature and spirit of love, devotion, education. And, also giving without the emptiness of the traditional holiday giving where the focus is on ‘things’ and monetary value, instead of people, family, and culture.”

Register for your December FAM package here!