Stories and photo by Charlesetta Thompson

African American Holiday Traditions
Black people all over the world are festive, so why not in Milwaukee’s Harambee community?

Watch Night
Most churches in African American communities celebrate New Year’s Eve with a “Watch Night” service that usually begins at 9 or 10 pm, with singing, praying and testimony until midnight. Some of the services include a meal, others provide wholesome entertainment for the entire family. One of the traditional foods served on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day is black-eyed peas. Folklore denotes this dish as a sign of good luck; most people will say it’s just good eating!

If you wish to partake in a New Year’s Eve Church Service, please attend one of your choice or one of the two listed below:

New Life Presbyterian Church
3276 N. Palmer St.
10 pm, with a meal following
Rev. Dr. Terrell H. Cistrunk, Pastor

Solomon Community Temple
United Methodist Church
3295 N. MLK Drive
Rev. Marvin Spence, Pastor

Since 1966 many African Americans have celebrated Kwanzaa, a cultural celebration that takes place from December 26 to January 1. Some people blend the festivities of Christmas, Kwanzaa and New Year’s. As you drive through Harambee, not only will you find images of Santa Claus, you will see Nativity Scenes, Angels, Kinaras, and more.

Ella Brown celebrates 100 years!
Ella, the only child of James and Irene Ruffin Brown, was born in Dallas, Texas on November 9, 1906. Ella married George Thomas, Sr. and had two sons; George, Jr. and Clarence. Ms. Brown said she has about 12 grandchildren and about 5 great-grandchildren. She laughed and said the numbers may not be accurate because she has not met them all!

Family and close friends from near and far shared an intimate birthday dinner with Ella on Saturday, November 4, in the community room of Garden Place, the assisted living facility where she resides. On November 9 the residents and her friends from the Rose Senior Center joined Ella for coffee, punch and cake. Barbara Brown Thomas and Tiana Brown Haile (daughter- in-law and granddaughter) planned the festivities. Ms. Brown was the first resident to move into Garden Place, which opened in October, 2005.

Riverwest Currents online edition – December, 2006