Around Town: Virtual celebration aims to raise local awareness of Kwanzaa traditions

CULTURAL CELEBRATION: A display at Henderson County’s main library is among several projects the WNC Kwanzaa Collective has sponsored to raise awareness of the weeklong holiday, which runs Dec. 26-Jan. 1. Photo courtesy of Crystal Cauley

Crystal Cauley wants to help preserve African American history in Western North Carolina. To that end, the Hendersonville writer and activist has organized local Black History Month and Juneteenth events; she has also written a spoken word poem about the history of slavery in Henderson County.

And now she is putting her efforts into the WNC Kwanzaa Collective, which will hold a virtual celebration at the Hands On! Children’s Museum in Hendersonville on Saturday, Dec. 18, at 4 p.m.

“The goal is for people to learn about Kwanzaa and decide to celebrate this year,” she says. “Learning about this cultural observance increases knowledge and feelings of inclusion.”

Kwanzaa begins on Sunday, Dec. 26, and lasts through Saturday, Jan. 1. The annual celebration of African American culture, first held in 1966, was created by Maulana Karenga and is based on harvest festival traditions from various parts of Africa.

“The misconception I find is that people believe it’s a religious holiday,” Cauley says. “Kwanzaa is a cultural observance week that has a spiritual element, but is not associated with any religion. If someone celebrated Christmas, then it’s fine to celebrate Kwanzaa, too.”

The virtual event will include speakers, drumming, a dance performance by Carolina Diva Diamonds and the unveiling of art by Diamond Cash, a Henderson County native.

Cauley’s efforts to raise awareness of Kwanzaa has already paid off in other ways, as well. Asheville, Hendersonville and Brevard have issued proclamations acknowledging Dec. 26-Jan. 1 as Kwanzaa Week. New Fletcher Mayor Preston Blakely will follow suit during the Dec. 18 virtual event.

And the WNC Kwanzaa Collective is sponsoring a monthlong Kwanzaa display at Henderson County’s main library, 301 N. Washington St. in Hendersonville. The exhibit includes the proclamations, art,  children’s literature and the display of a kinara, the seven-branched candleholder used in Kwanzaa celebrations.

The virtual event will be streamed on the Hands On! Children’s Museum’s Facebook page. To learn more, visit

Home for the holidays

After going virtual in 2020, A Swannanoa Solstice returns to the Wortham Center for the Performing Arts for two shows on Sunday, Dec. 19, at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. The event, now in its 19th year, features Appalachian folk, roots, Celtic and world-influenced music.

“Western North Carolina is rich in tradition and roots,” says Rae Geoffrey, managing director of the Wortham Center. “To many audience members, A Swannanoa Solstice feels like a homecoming that honors their families, ancestors and history.”

Among the featured artists at the shows will be multi-instrumentalist Robin Bullock, Grammy winner David Holt, Josh Goforth, EJ Jones and the Piper Jones Band, Phil Jamison and host Doug Orr.

New to the bill this year will be Asheville-based Americana duo Zoe & Cloyd, made up of Natalya Zoe Weinstein, a renowned fiddler and vocalist, and her husband, John Cloyd Miller, a multi-instrumentalist and the grandson of pioneering bluegrass fiddler, Jim Shumate. The group will tie Shumate’s traditional Jewish instrumental music into their old-time bluegrass sound.

The Wortham Center for the Performing Arts is at 18 Biltmore Ave. For more information or to buy tickets, visit

Reborn identity

In folklore, a revenant is a figure reborn after death or a long absence.

That idea, particularly popular with the ancient Egyptians and Greeks, has particular resonance at a time when many people are reentering society after a long absence. That’s why Hendersonville’s Continuum Art gallery chose the word as the title of its new group show.

Revenant’s opening takes place 4-7 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 18, and the show runs through Monday, March 7. The exhibit is a response to the pandemic and a “post-pandemic” world and will include works by local sculptor Julie Slattery, Copenhagen artist øjeRum (Paw Grabowski), London artist Dan Hillier and Dutch visual artist Juul Kraijer.

“Our gallery owner and curator of this show, Katie Montes, grouped together artists that were responding to their new normal,” says Mandy Hartman, gallery and studio coordinator. “She is encouraging guests to view these works and reflect on the shared experience of isolation, then reentering society, social groups, returning to work.”

Collage artist øjeRum uses only antique magazines and early 19th-century newspaper clippings to create otherworldly compositions. The artist will include original, ambient music to accompany his pieces, and the gallery encourages people to bring headphones to hear the music via a YouTube link as they move through the exhibition.

Meanwhile, Hillier creates ethereal collages by manipulating elements of 19th-century wood and steel engravings and adding her own line work to produce screen and giclee prints. Slattery’s sculptural work explores emotional responses of loss and attachment. And Kraijer’s principal mediums are drawing and photography.

Continuum Art is at 147-C First Ave. E. in Hendersonville and is open Tuesday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-7 p.m. and by appointment. For more information, go to

Helping the homeless

Usually, you don’t bring a gift when you visit Kris Kringle, but Santa’s Mini Workshop On the Go is an exception. The family-friendly holiday workshop provides clothing items to Homeward Bound WNC, a local nonprofit seeking to end homelessness. Sponsored by Go Mini’s Portable Storage, the final socially distanced event takes place Thursday, Dec. 16, 5-8 p.m., at Highland Brewing Co.

“We want families and kids to have that special opportunity to talk to Santa,” Go Mini’s owner, Robie Campbell, says in a press release. “And it’s important for us to support community organizations like Homeward Bound. In uncertain times, it’s more important than ever that we care for one another.”

Radio station 99.9 Kiss Country will be on hand 5:30-7:30 p.m., selecting one winner to receive tickets to The N.C. Arboretum’s Winter Lights. During the event, participants will also have a chance to be entered to win a $250 Visa gift card and a personalized video from Appalachian Santa.

Highland Brewing Co. is at 12 Old Charlotte Highway, Suite 200. For more information, visit

A Christmas Carol …

Take a trip back to Christmas Past while staying right here in Christmas Present.

The Mars Hill University Theatre Arts department, in conjunction with the Southern Appalachian Repertory Theatre, will present live performances of A Christmas Carol at Owen Theatre Thursday, Dec. 16-Saturday, Dec. 18, at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday, Dec. 19, at 2 p.m.

Virtual performances will be available on demand Monday, Dec. 20-Sunday, Dec. 26.

Standard seats are $28, premium seats are $32, and the virtual pass is $25.

The Owen Theatre is at 44 College St. in Mars Hill. For more information or to buy tickets, go to For more on virtual performances, visit

… or maybe not

And speaking of Mr. Scrooge & Co., the HART Theatre’s latest production starts off as a traditional production of the Dickens classic, until an actor onstage proclaims, “I can’t do this!”

What follows is Every Christmas Story Ever Told (and then some)!, a comedy featuring three actors performing stories from around the world, complete with costume changes, a plethora of props and even a Jimmy Stewart impression.

The show will be performed Friday-Saturday, Dec. 17-18, at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday, Dec. 19, at 2 p.m.

HART Theatre is at 250 Pigeon St. in Waynesville. For more information or to get tickets, go to





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About Justin McGuire
Justin McGuire is a UNC Chapel Hill graduate with more than 30 years of experience as a writer and editor. His work has appeared in The Sporting News, the (Rock Hill, SC) Herald and various other publications. Follow me @jmcguireMLB

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