Queens Borough Hall Unites the Community with Annual Kwanzaa Ceremony

By Athena Dawson | [email protected]

The day after Christmas marks the start of the weeklong Kwanzaa holiday. To celebrate, the Queens borough president’s office hosted their annual Kwanzaa ceremony on Wednesday, Dec. 27, at the Helen Marshall Cultural Center at Queens Borough Hall. The event kicked off with a screening of The Black Candle, a documentary detailing the importance of Kwanzaa and its principles within the Black diaspora. Dozens of people watched solemnly and gathered to eat food provided by the borough hall office. After the screening, audience members stood to sing the Star Spangled Banner and the Black national anthem, Lift Every Voice.

Dawn Kelly, a chair member of the African American Heritage Committee, opened the Kwanzaa celebration encouraging audience members to frequent Black owned businesses during the holiday season.

“Tonight we’re going to be celebrating the first fruits of our community. One of the things the movie talked about is, we should use this week to celebrate and frequent small Black owned businesses in our community,” Kelly said.

Felix Omozusi lights the Kwanzaa Kinara during his performance as Brother Kwanzaa

Following Kelly’s opening remarks, Queens Borough President Donovan Richards Jr. briefly spoke about the importance of reflecting on the principles of Kwanzaa.

“We are so happy to be celebrating another program that reflects African American heritage and our diversity here in Queens County. Kwanzaa encourages us to focus on the seven principles, which are important values and ideas to incorporate into our lives all year long,” he said.

Throughout the night, students of the DeVore Dance Center performed riveting modern dance, festive African and hip-hop dance numbers to usher in the celebration. An air of excitement could be felt as parents in the audience cheered students on and recorded the performances.

DeVore dancers put on a performance for the crowd

Towards the end of the ceremony, performers from the Black Spectrum Theatre teased a snippet of their “‘Twas The Night Before Kwanzaa” holiday comedy. Felix Omozusi, who played Brother Kwanzaa, put on an impressive performance tying in each of the seven principles of Kwanzaa. Towards the end of his act, he performed a Kinara lighting ceremony at the centerpiece in the middle of the stage. The Kinara is the candle holder that holds all of the seven multicolored candles that represent Kwanzaa. As the ceremony came to a close, the night ended on a high note with a final energetic performance by the DeVore dancers.


Martin Luther School Basketball Team: Looking at the Season Ahead

By Justin Joseph | [email protected]

Coming off the heels of a 5-15 season last year, the Martin Luther School basketball team knew heading into this season there needed to be significant changes. 

“Last year, people didn’t really want it as much as they should, they took it as a joke,” sophomore guard Justin Trail said. “This year they really want to prove themselves…. everybody matured over the summer.”

Already off to a 4-2 start on the season, head coach Jon Kablack knew he needed time to turn around the program after dealing with COVID-19 and a young, growing team last season.

Coach John Kablack

The 2022 basketball season was the first full season with Kablack as the head coach of the team. The year prior was abbreviated due to COVID and his first season, a year before that, the entire season was canceled.

Looking forward to the unique challenges of his first full season as coach, Kablack knew he had his work cut out for him.

“Last year I started building and I had a very young team” Kablack said.  I had a couple ninth graders starting for me on the varsity level, so it was a very young team.”

This year Kablack brought in help from a senior transfer named Tristan Elcock, a six-foot guard that averages 12 points and three rebounds on the season to help steward the Cougars offense.

Gavin Hugine

Kablack has stated that this addition is the key to the Cougars success due to Elcock’s speed and defensive tenacity  allowing  them to press teams before entering the half court and cause turnovers.

When paired alongside fellow teammate Justin Trail, this dynamic duo has been hard for teams this season to counter thus far.

Team captain and leading scorer Gavin Hugine made it known that their team has one goal in mind this season: qualifying for the New York State Association of Independent Schools (NYSAIS) tournament at the end of the season.

“It would mean a lot. It would show the growth in determination we had from last year compared to this year,” Hugine said.

For others like Trail, he also plays for bigger things off the court.

“I’m mostly doing this for my mom, I want to make her proud too because it’s really just me and my mom,” Trail said.

Gavin Hugine

Many players also said this year’s team is closer than they were last year and that the coaching staff encourages them to train together, lift together and workout together, which will translate well to their relationships and chemistry on the court.

They are hoping that this newfound connection and joy of being together will lead them to the top of the Private School Athletic Association (PSAA) this year.

The Cougars kept their winning ways when they faced Waldorf Monday evening, winning 69-67.


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