The natural and rhythmic sound of the MBondAfrika drumming group’s conga and mbonda drums beckons you into the entrance of the Clarkston Community Center.
The drummers bob and sway to the music they are creating. A blond child tiptoes closer and closer to them, as intrigued by the lively sounds as by the smiling musicians.
You walk past the people gathered at the doorway of the Community Center watching them play, turn a corner and enter the foyer leading into Angora Hall. The lights dim. Your night is just beginning.
The Clarkston Community Celebration, hosted by the Clarkston Community Center on Sept. 29, was a bounty of multi-cultural music, dance, and celebration. Only in Clarkston would you find such a mosaic of color and movement pieced together by people of all backgrounds.
The field of performers, including Uhuru dancers, the International Community Players, the Bhutanese Artists of Georgia, and the Congregation Bet Haverim chorus, came together on this night to share the fruits of their various crafts. Guests enjoyed martial arts, dance, music, and international food, all for the worthy cause of building support for the continued growth and flourishing of this community.
This, the third annual Community Celebration, saw the hall decorated to the hilt, with stalks of wheat and jars of pickled okra at each table, a place setting for each invited group, and dim lights casting an intimate glow throughout the hall. A silent auction for ten items was arranged in the foyer, including a harvest basket, an Adidas sports bag, a child’s step stool, and a digital camera.
After a DeKalb County Public Health Service demonstration of the Qi Gong style of Tai Chi, Community Center Executive Director Mckenzie Wren welcomed attendees with a short speech, and opened the stage.
A pair of Paula Larke’s International Community players danced and sang together in a twin chorus of youthful melody. Then Clarkston Youth Initiative member Gunawork Wondimneh wowed guests with dance moves set to an energetic pop number. Finally, one of Shell Ramirez’s young aspiring actresses performed the number “Tomorrow” from Annie.
But when the Uhuru Dancers took the stage, the feel of the evening escalated in pitch and intensity. Anchored by a lone, stoney-faced drummer, their performance pulled the energy of the room forward, eventually drawing guests and spectators into a dance that extended out from the stage, closer and closer to the tables in the center of the hall.
The Uhuru dancers themselves were dressed in colorful African garb. Larger, energetic women with movements powerful but quick, they danced with a frenzied spirit, waving their arms and trembling to the sound of their accompanying circle of musicians.
When the Congregation Bet Haverim Chorus took the stage, the Chorus Director Will Robertson led the room through a satisfying three-song set. This mixed age-range group, with their pleasing guitar-led song-structures and intelligent phrasing, had the crowd singing along and tapping their toes.
The Bhutanese Artists of Georgia then took the stage, and concluded the gala evening with a coordinated dance number set to a song they had carried in on their computer. These young men danced together with exercised, practiced motions, and brought the evening to a close with a quiet pride.
At the end of the day, the third annual Community Celebration was a perfect example of youth and adults sharing their cultural traditions, building the skills and practices of people in this unique community, and collaborating together to create an unforgettable experience.
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