Three generations of Kwanzaa 

  • Ololara Baptiste, 10, and her brother, Ayotide, 12, spend some time at the keyboards in their home in Pelham, Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2019. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Whitney Battle-Baptiste (at left) says she’s enjoyed watching her children embrace Kwanzaa as their own. Each day of the week-long celebration, they lit a candle, displayed in a holder called a kinara (above), to honor the holiday’s seven core principles — unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith.osting a community potluck for about 30 friends. She and her husband, Trevor Baptiste, bought the painting by Brazilian artist Raimundo Bida at a fundraiser for a press specializing in black literature. STAFF PHOTOS/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Trevor Baptiste cuts vegetables for dinner as Whitney Battle-Baptiste watches as her daughter, Ololara, 10, and son, Adelomo, 7, fold paper at their home in Pelham, Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2019. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • At an event honoring creativity at UMass’s New Africa House this Kwanzaa, Ayotide brought a book filled with music he wrote. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Ololara and her brother Adelomo have fun drawing before dinner. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Ololara Baptiste, 10, and her brother, Adelomo, 7, draw at the dining room table before dinner at their home in Pelham, Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2019. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Whitney Battle-Baptiste cuts vegetables for dinner.

  • The holiday sets the tone for the new year, says Battle-Baptiste, with Trevor Baptiste and their children (from left) Ololara, 10, Adelomo, 7, and Ayotide, 12. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • The Baptiste family gathers before dinner at their home in Pelham, Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2019. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Trevor Baptiste, Whitney Battle-Baptiste and their children, Ayotide, 12, Ololara, 10, and Adelomo, 7, at their home in Pelham, Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2019. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Ayotide Baptiste, 12, Ololara Baptiste, 10, and Adelomo Baptiste, 7, draw at the dining room table before dinner at their home in Pelham, Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2019. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Trevor Baptiste prepares dinner at his home in Pelham, Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2019. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

@AndyCCastillo
Published: 1/11/2019 10:52:25 AM

When the clock struck midnight on Jan. 1 last week, Whitney Battle-Baptiste and Trevor Baptiste of Pelham celebrated more than the new year.

“We’re raising a third generation in the practice of (Kwanzaa),” Battle-Baptiste said. “Both of us grew up celebrating it with our mothers.”

Battle-Baptiste, an associate professor anthropology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Center, was sitting in the living room of her home recently with her husband, Baptiste, and their three children, Ayotide, 12, Ololara, 10, and Adelomo, 7. Baptiste also has a doctorate degree and works at UMass in the graduate department.

The week-long celebration honoring African heritage in African-American culture ran from Dec. 26 through last Tuesday.

To celebrate, Battle-Baptiste and Baptiste and their children attended a different community event each day including one at the Pan African Historical Museum in Springfield, another at the Bang Cultural Center in Amherst, a gathering at a friend’s house and a fourth celebration at the New Africa House at UMass.

At home each day, they lit one of seven red, green, and black candles, displayed in a holder called a kinara, to honor the holiday’s seven core principles — unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith.

They ended the week by hosting a potluck for about 30 friends.

For their family, it was a chance to start the year off on the right foot by honoring their ancestors and their heritage, surrounded by their community.

“Kwanzaa reminds us of the value of getting together and breaking up the routine. We’re so busy between soccer practice and music lessons and gymnastics and meetings,” Battle-Baptiste said. “It helps remind us at the end of the year and it begins the new year (right). … It sets the tone.”

The holiday was established in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga, professor and chair of Black Studies at California State University, Long Beach.

“(Kwanzaa) was created as a way to gather strength against marginalization, racism, and later on, sexism, homophobia — all those things that hold us back as a community. … Kwanzaa, in its inception, is a way to get communities to be strong against marginalization,” Baptiste said. “To be a bulwark against what a lot of people are just recognizing what’s happening in the world.”

While the core principles remain constant, it’s celebrated in different ways. For Battle-Baptiste and Baptiste, their family celebrates Kwanzaa in addition to Christmas, New Year’s Day and the Haitian New Year. On Jan. 1, 1804, Haiti declared independence from the French colonial empire. Baptiste said his family is originally from Haiti.

Their house is tucked away down a long driveway in the woods. It’s a peaceful split-level ranch with three bedrooms and an open floor plan upstairs. Their most treasured object is a painting from Brazil. The piece, by Brazilian artist Raimundo Bida, of three children playing an accordion, a triangle, and a drum, reminded the couple of their own kids. But more importantly, they bought the painting last year as a family heirloom.

“Trevor liked it because we have a daughter and two sons. It reminded us of how different and together they are,” said Battle-Baptiste.” It’s a one of a kind.”

The couple purchased the piece at a fundraiser they hosted last year for Editora Ogum’s Toques Negros, a Brazil-based printing press that focuses on printing black literature.

“In the whole country (Brazil), there’s not a (another) black-owned publishing press,” said Baptiste.

They wanted to support Editora Ogum’s Toques Negros because it “has a mission of taking important works in the pantheon and translating them (accurately),” explained Baptiste, as opposed to presses that alter the tone of a piece in translation. Baptiste has seen other presses, for example, “take a James Baldwin article, which might be critical of white supremacy and capitalism, and translate it into their language in such a way that takes the sting or bite out of it.”

On a philosophical level, they purchased the painting — which Battle-Baptiste described as an investment — to show their children that it’s important to act on their convictions.

Supporting black-owned businesses is a philosophy that has roots in Kwanzaa, as represented by the principle ‘cooperative economics.’ It’s a philosophy that carries on long after Kwanzaa has ended. And more than just cooperative economics, their family endeavors to live out all of the holiday’s seven core principles throughout the year, Battle-Baptiste says.

When Battle-Baptiste was growing up in New York, where she met Baptiste, she recalls attending community bazaars in Brooklyn with her family in the weeks before Kwanzaa. There, local vendors sold their wares and community members purchased gifts to commemorate each day. Gifts, either handmade or purchased from the local community, are traditionally given on each day of Kwanzaa.

Now as a parent, Battle-Baptiste says she’s enjoyed watching her children embrace Kwanzaa as their own. At a celebration this past Kwanzaa at the New Africa House at UMass honoring the principle creativity for example, Ayotide brought a book filled with music that he wrote, and Ololara brought a poem she wrote about Kwanzaa.

Looking to the future, Battle-Baptiste says they’d like to host another fundraiser for Editora Ogum’s Toques Negros. She said their family also intends to connect with their friends more in order to foster community.

“You hope not to wait until next Kwanzaa to see everybody,” she said.

Andy Castillo can be reached at acastillo@gazettenet.com.




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