Kwanzaa with the library


On Saturday, December 16, 2023, the library’s Black Cultural Library Advocates (BCLA) hosted the community in a Kwanzaa pre-celebration at the Soul Restoration Center in northeast Portland.

Candles on a table, and a coffee cup that says Black Excellence

Kwanzaa, meaning "first fruits," is a week-long (December 26 to January 1) celebration of African American culture, heritage and values. Each of the seven days is dedicated to one of the following Kwanzaa principles: Umoja (Unity), Kujichagulia (Self-Determination), Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility), Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics), Nia (Purpose), Kuumba (Creativity) and Imani (Faith).

The event started with a speech by Malcolm Hoover, co-founder of Black Futures Farm, that focused on the theme of connection and community. 

“He started by calling on our eldest and youngest in the space. His message for our younger folks was that they need to help take care of our elders. For our elders, it was to make space for our younger ones and for their future,” says Israel Fin, Multnomah County Library’s Black Community Services and Engagement Coordinator. “I really liked that concept of community and care which speaks to all seven Kwanzaa principles.”

Malcolm Hoover standing with a microphone during the lighting ceremony

Pictured: Malcolm Hoover during the candle-lighting ceremony.

There was a candle-lighting ceremony where a community member played the djembe drum. “We held offerings for ancestors and Malcolm brought sustenance from his garden that was harvested that day,” says Israel.

Attendees enjoyed music by a local DJ, painted and decorated mud clothes, and participated in a head wrap tutorial by Shalonda Menefee, an empowerment coach and presenter from SISTAS

Shalonda Menefee, doing the head wrap tutorial on a child's head

Pictured: Shalonda Menefee during the head wrap tutorial.

“It was amazing to see not just women and men, but also the boys doing the tutorial so that they could share with the people in their lives. I thought this was a particularly sweet moment,” shares Israel.

North Portland Library has a long-standing history of celebrating Kwanzaa with the community — including show-casing a piece of art, created by local artist Charlotte Lewis, which has most recently been lent to Portland Art Museum for the exhibit Black Artists of Oregon

North Portland Library, a home library for many of the staff and attendees, is currently under construction. Renovations are expected to be complete in fall 2024, and will include a new Black Cultural Center.

“I’ve been shocked and amazed by the dedication that the Black Cultural Library Advocates bring to cultural celebrations to the community," says Israel Fin, Multnomah County Library’s Black Community Services and Engagement Coordinator.

The library’s BCLA team are library team members who focus on strengthening the connection between the Black community and Multnomah County Library. Through programs like Black Storytime the library promotes early literacy for babies through pre-k. The outreach services BCLA staff provide includes going to schools, local community centers, events and more. Learn more about the BCLA team.

Cultural groups