The 38th Annual Citywide Kwanzaa Celebration held by the National Black United Front – Kansas City Chapter in partnership with the American Jazz Museum will be held every night of Kwanzaa with the theme “1619-2019: 400 Years of Resistance.”

Kansas City is one of only a handful of cities nationwide that celebrates Kwanzaa a full seven days. The first six days, Dec. 26-Dec. 31, are celebrated at the Historic Gem Theater on 18th and Vine, Kansas City, MO. Each evening begins at 6 p.m. with an African Market. Some nights include a Kwanzaa vignette, put on in the lobby beginning at 6:30 p.m. There’s the Karibu or welcome call at 6:45, also in the lobby, followed by the drum call and procession led by Soundz of Africa at 7 p.m.

The following day of Kwanzaa is held on Jan. 1, 3 p.m. at the Nefertiti Ballroom, 1314 Quindaro Blvd, KCK. Everyone who attends on Jan. 1 is asked to bring a dish to share with others in attendance.

The Kansas City Chapter of the National Black United Front began celebrating Kwanzaa as a group in 1981. In the span of almost three decades the event has grown from a one-night festivity held in someone’s home to a full seven evenings of culture and entertainment.

Each evening is unique, but those who attend can expect to enjoy African and African-American cultural elements such as traditional African and African-American dance, language, fables, myths, stories, libation ceremonies, songs, films, speakers, slave narratives, historical figures, instruments, tools, and artifacts. Don’t forget to bring your wallet and arrive early to support the vendors in the African-American market.

KC Kwanzaa Daily Hosts and Talent Lineup

December 26, Umoja (Unity) – The first night of Kwanzaa will be hosted by the Kansas City chapter of the National Black United Front and the Esoke Cultural Arts Center. Esoke was formed in 1988 and was incorporated in 2003 as a performing arts school. They have been providing high quality dance, drum, language, sewing, and arts and crafts classes for the past 10 years. Yaminah Muhammad, the group’s artistic director, has studied in Senegal and Gambia, West Africa, as well as Barbados in the West Indies. Esoke will perform a variety of African songs and dances.

In addition to the Esoke performance, the Charles Miller Black Liberation Award will be presented to Mildred and George Walker. Long-time Kansas City residents, the Walkershave worked to close the digital divide since 2001, beginning at the W.E.B. DuBois Learning Center. They founded the Black Family Technology Awareness Association (BFTAA) in 2004 and began Black Family Technology Awareness Week in Kansas City, and hosted the first all-Black girls VEX robotics team in Kansas City. Mildred and George and many BFTAA volunteers have worked together as a team to touch families in the community and help them learn how to improve their standard of living using technology.

December 27, Kujichagulia (Self-Determination) – This night of Kwanzaa will be hosted by Art in Motion and the African-Centered College Preparatory Academy (ACCPA). Danny Diallo Hinds is the artistic director. The ACCPA is one of the 400 schools chosen to represent America in the commemoration of 400 years of the resilience of enslavement here in the United States. Their performance will consist of traditional African songs and dances.

December 28, Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility) – The W.E.B. DuBois Learning Center will host the third night of Kwanzaa. For 46 years, the Learning Center has helped residents to improve their reading, mathematics, science, and computer skills, exposes students to positive role models and mentors with careers in such fields as education, medicine, engineering, accounting, and computer programming, and provides an enrichment program for students working at or above their grade level. On this night be prepared to be entertained, inspired, and surprised as the Learning Center showcases its Collective Work and Responsibility through the colorful and diverse stories of alumni, volunteers, partners, and supporters. Also featured will be the Kansas City Friends of Alvin Ailey. 

December 29, Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics) – This night will be hosted by the Buy Black Empowerment Initiative (BBEI). In alignment with the principle Ujamaa, which means, “To build and maintain our own stores, shops and other businesses and to profit from them together,” the BBEI will present its 3rd Annual Buy Black Awards during the evening. This year BBEI will honor Tovah Tanner as the Ambassador of the Year. Tovah is the founder the Royale Cohesive Network and works with youth entrepreneurs to get their businesses and dreams up and going. During the award ceremony BBEI will also recognize, with a special award, each youth entrepreneur who will be vending in the African Marketplace during the week-long Kwanzaa celebration. In addition to the Ambassador award BBEI will also recognize other businesses in the community with awards such as the Pillar and Vendor of The Year awards.

December 30, Nia (Purpose) – The host for this evening’s program will be the A-Flat Music Studio Inc., which provides Kansas City area youth with formal instrumental music instruction. During the evening the audience will be regaled with performances by the A-Flat Youth Orchestra, Jamison Memorial Temple CME choir, and soloists Asa Barnes and Nala Hill. The evening’s presentation will consist of a couple of exciting show tunes from the orchestra’s repertoire along with some special selections.

December 31, Kuumba (Creativity) – This night of Kwanzaa will be hosted by the American Jazz Museum, located in the historic 18th & Vine Jazz District. The featured performer for the evening will be Lady D. Lady D began her musical endeavors at the early age of 8 in church choirs, local gospel groups and countless talent shows. In her late teen years she recorded a gospel album and appeared on the Bobby Jones Gospel show. Through the years she has appeared on several recordings and opened for the likes of Roger Troutman & Zapp, Brian McKnight, Najee and Peabo Bryson. Her musical style is an eclectic mix of jazz, R&B and blues. Lady D is a well-rounded, professional entertainer

Immediately following the events at the Gem Theater guests are invited to travel across the street to the American Jazz Museum for the 2019 Kwanzaa Ball. The Kwanzaa Ball is a New Year’s Eve family celebration. The Esoke Cultural Arts Center will perform at the Ball. There will be heavy hors d’oeuvres served and a cash bar. Music will be provided by DJ Samihah Soul. Tickets are available in advance for $25/adults and $10/children under 18. The adult tickets are $35 at the door. Tickets can be purchased on line at and are available at the American Jazz Museum Swing Shop, 816-474-6262.

January 1, Imani (Faith) – The seventh day of Kwanzaa will be an afternoon event hosted by the Kansas City Black United Front. This event will be held at 3 p.m. at the Nefertiti Ballroom, 1314 Quindaro, Kansas City, KS. Performing at the Feast will be the music group Ground Level. Ground Level has performed its original music in the Kansas City area for over 35 years. Elton J. Gumbel Jr., songwriter, vocalist and keyboardist, Keith Leathers, bass, and Lee Barnes Jr., drums, specialize in music that is inspirational, cultural and political commentary.

All Kwanzaa events, with the exception of the Kwanzaa Ball, are free and open to the public. For more information call 816-866-3025 or

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