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Kwanzaa Festival Cancelled

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Cancel Kwanzaa. The Capital City Kwanzaa Festival, marking the observance of the African American cultural holiday and a 17-year tradition in the city, won't be happening this year.

In recent years, the event has drawn hundreds to the Greater Richmond Convention Center to browse vendors of Afrocentric wares, watch African dancers and see old friends. Past festivals have included performances from national artists such as Gil Scott-Heron, Melba Moore, The Last Poets and appearances from comedian Dick Gregory and Kwanzaa creator Maulana Karenga.

Negotiations with a "personality" selected for this year's event weren't successful, Bell explains.

"We worked very hard," says event organizer and Elegba Folklore Society founder Janine Bell. "But we unable to sync up."

Bell says she agonized over the decision to call off one of the largest Kwanzaa events in the state. But without a celebrity centerpiece, she decided not to put on event that was less than what people had come to expect.

"I think it's a tragedy," says King Salim Khalfani, executive director of the Virginia NAACP, which cosponsored the event for the last three years. "That's been a staple in our community for some time now. It's a tough time for nonprofits, especially those who do work that liberating for our people."

The Elegba Folklore Society plans to hold an event similar to Kwanzaa in February and the aforementioned "personality" is scheduled to appear.

"That would be good, but we want to see Kwanzaa during its time," Khalfani says.

The Kwanzaa festival is the second city-based African American holiday event to be canceled this year. In October, organizers canceled the 12th Annual Hull Street Holiday Parade after organizers failed to book enough high school marching bands due to scheduling conflicts.

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