A Chat with Kumbuka Celebration Organizer Cathryn McGill

The New Mexico Black History Organizing Committee invites you to kick off the 8th Annual NM Black History Festival at their free and family friendly Kumbuka Celebration with a fantastic entertainment lineup at the KiMo Theatre on February 1st.

We chatted with event organizer, founder and director of the New Mexico Black History Organizing Committee, Cathryn McGill, to learn a little more about the upcoming event.

What inspired you to organize the Kumbuka Celebration?

Kumbuka means “remember” in Swahili. Marcus Garvey once wrote that a people who lack the knowledge or their past history origin and culture are like a tree without roots. Truer words have never been spoken. We must know where we came from, to understand where we are, to successfully orchestrate where we will ultimately wind up.

The Kumbuka Celebration is the kickoff presentation for the 8th Annual NM Black History Festival and this lively cabaret style music, spoken word and dance program is a poignant tribute to our ancestors—the people whose shoulders we stand upon. Most of the tributes will to those famous people that we all knew and loved (Prince, Ntozake Shange, Miriam Makeba, Natalie Cole) and some will be to pay homage to the mothers, fathers, grandparents and friends who have been the wind beneath our wings.

What types of performances can guests expect at the event?

There will be live music, spoken word and dance from some of Albuquerque’s most beloved entertainers – Andrew Cooper, Michael Herndon, Rujeko Dumbutshena, Rebecca Arscott, Cathryn McGill, Toni Morgan, Gene Corbin, Dee Brown, Chris Cushman, Paul Palmer, LaSheba Bowens, Shirley Sainte, Reverend Amani Malaika and Josef Scott. You will laugh, you will certainly cry and you will be moved, touched and inspired to know more about your history and to give honor to your own ancestral roots. You can also participate in the event – there will be an interactive libation ceremony. Please bring along a picture of a lost loved one so that you can remember with us.

Why is it important for New Mexico residents to engage in activities for Black History Month?

In order to promote true multiculturalism, we must make a daily commitment to engage with and understand other cultures. Black History Month is set aside for us to celebrate Black Culture but we know that Black History is American History and therefore it is relevant 365 days a year.

This month, however, all of us get to celebrate the important contribution that African Americans have made in New Mexico and in the United States. When we understand that we are better together and we take intentional steps to create harmony, New Mexico will be the “beloved community” that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke about. Indeed, it will be a place that works for everyone regardless of what you look like, who you love or how much money you have. That’s our goal.

If you could connect with a Black History trailblazer who would it be and why?

It’s hard to choose just one, but here we go. I’ve often thought that Zora Neale Hurston and I would have been good friends if we had traveled here together at the same time. Zora Neale Hurston was the most prominent black woman writer in the first half of the twentieth century, she wrote novels, plays and books of folklore about the black experience in America. She was full of vim, vigor and light – a brilliant woman who could command a room and turn a phrase with the best and brightest. Her words resonate deep within my soul. On the importance of understanding and remembering the past, she said “The present was an egg laid by the past that had the future in its shell”.

On thriving no matter what, she said “Sometimes, I feel discriminated against, but it does not make me angry. It merely astonishes me. How can any deny themselves the pleasure of my company? It’s beyond me.” As they say in the hood. “Sho u right.” That’s my kind of lady and I hope I would have been smart enough to be her friend if we had lived at the same time. I’m glad though that I have the ability to go back and benefit from her wit and wisdom through her work—it’s ALMOST as good as having her right here.

More information about the event can be found here

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