Twenty-five years ago my grandmother, Mattie N. Harris, welcomed friends and family to her home and ushered in a cultural tradition that the community continues to enjoy. On remembering the very first Kwanzaa celebration that her daughter, Verda Harris-Olayinka, asked her to host, she said, “The house was very crowded, standing room only, but at least people had enough food to eat.” As the matriarch of the Harris Family, she still opens every Kwanzaa celebration, welcoming everyone to the event as if they are guests in her living room.
Kwanzaa is a cultural holiday founded by Mulana Karenga in 1966. Infusing African traditions and values, using the language of Swahili, Kwanzaa unites people of African descent with the continent and empowers people to strengthen themselves and their community. Kwanzaa is celebrated from December 26th through January 1st by 20 million people worldwide. Each day represents one of the seven principles, the Nguzo Saba, and a candle is lit each day of Kwanzaa in the candleholder called a kinara.
The principles are: Umoja (Unity), Kujichagulia (Self-Determination), Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility), Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics), Nia (Purpose), Kuumba (Creativity), and Imani
This December, Brooklyn Children’s Museum will be exploring how different families celebrate the holidays. We’re incredibly excited to present a Ukrainian performance of carols and dance on December 7th featuring a family: the Dobriansky Brothers. Andrij Dobriansky graciously took the time to answer a few questions about their upcoming performance, growing up in the arts, and Ukrainian heritage.
Marcos: How did you start your career as a musician?
Andrij: I am a Ukrainian-American: my father emigrated from Ukraine half a century ago, and my mother was born upon her parents’ arrival to this country. My first language was Ukrainian, all of my childhood friends were Ukrainian, and I could draw a map of Ukraine before I knew all fifty states. All of my life, I have been actively involved within the Ukrainian-American community, both as participant in, and as a recipient of, its generosity, its wisdom, and its vast array of cultural treasures.
One of those benefits was growing up in a musical household. Having a father who happened to have performed at the Metropolitan Opera Company for over 25 years, and recorded several popular Ukrainian albums, I began voice training at an early age. All of us sang around the piano
Monster Mash is an annual event that Brooklyn Children’s Museum produces to offer not-so-scary opportunities for your young ghouls and goblins to have Halloween fun. This year we had an amazing time welcoming almost 2000 new and returning visitors to this neighborhood tradition.
Decorating is always a must for Halloween, and the Museum was taken over by gnarly orange and neon green algae that seeped in and around our famous rainbow tube. Our Museum Team afterschool participants painted a colorful mural that we displayed in our windows, and a pumpkin prom king and queen greeted folks for a fun photo opportunity!
The Museum was brimming with activities that ranged from chimera creations and mask making to the very popular Do You Dare program that challenged families to get up-close and personal with some of our resident creepy-crawlies. Where else can a pirate showcase a super-sized sea creature to a couple of zombies!
We also enjoyed a number of exciting performances during Monster Mash. Action Racket Theatre presented The Magic Castle of Now: Halloween, and delighted young visitors with spooky stories and songs. Our Museum Team afterschool program showcased their fantastic