HeartBeat celebrates spirit of Kwanzaa with music, storytelling

Abbey Stirgwolt

Their hands flew across the drums with the speed and agility of a track star, the precision of a trained marksman and the simplistic ease of two friends sitting down to an evening meal.

Using a jimbay drum, two congas and an overturned plastic bucket – with the addition of an occasional pair of drumsticks – the two members of HeartBeat orchestrated an improvised symphony of rhythm that would put the members of STOMP to shame.

It was all in celebration of Kwanzaa, a holiday celebrating black culture and promoting unity within the black community.

Though the Kwanzaa holiday officially takes place from Dec. 26 to Jan. 1, the Black Graduate Student Association, which sponsored last night’s Kwanzaa celebration in Oscar Ritchie Hall, chose to hold the event last night so students would be able attend.

The drum performance was followed by the animated storytelling of Kent State graduate Jocelyn Dabney. BGSA co-chair Bridgett King introduced Dabney as a “dynamic storyteller, enrapturing actress and compassionate high school librarian.”

The first black to graduate from Kent State with a degree in storytelling, Dabney was quick to point out that the evening also marked the 50th anniversary of the Montgomery bus boycott in Montgomery, Ala.

Dressed in a vibrant turquoise tunic highlighted with white tie-dye and a matching turquoise bandana tied in her braided ponytail, Dabney opened with an account of a tailor who made a coat for himself and was so proud of it that he wore it everywhere he went. Gradually the coat wore out and the tailor used what was left to make a jacket. Eventually the jacket wore out and became a vest, then a cap and finally a button.

“The button became a memory,” she said. “Just like the story I just told you.”

Dabney encouraged members of the audience to think of their own “buttons” – items that remind them of their pasts. Her “button” was an old black pot she received from her mother.

“Every time I look at that pot I think of my mother’s love,” she said.

After sharing a humorous tale from her childhood about two women who bet to see whose husband was more foolish, Dabney left the audience with a closing thought representing one of the seven principles of Kwanzaa: Kujichagulia, or self-determination.

As her husband sang a song entitled “You are the One We’ve Been Waiting For,” Dabney appealed to the crowd:

“Whenever we go through a program, we want you to know that you are the ones we’ve been waiting for,” she said. “I want you to think of that problem, that situation that bugs you. Me and my husband, we believe that problem bugs you because God placed that in your heart, because you are supposed to do something about that problem.”

Finally, Dabney encouraged the audience to go out and share their stories.

“Stories are only good if you tell somebody,” she said.

Contact religion reporter Abbey Stirgwolt at [email protected].