Jackie Carter (left), director of the Children’s Legacy Theatre, congratulates her students after their performance of "The Amen Corner" during the Anacostia Coordinating Council’s holiday celebration at THEARC. (Marckell Williams/The Washington Informer)
Jackie Carter (left), director of the Children’s Legacy Theatre, congratulates her students after their performance of "The Amen Corner" during the Anacostia Coordinating Council’s holiday celebration at THEARC. (Marckell Williams/The Washington Informer)

About 200 people, mainly from Ward 8 in Southeast, came together to eat a buffet dinner and view entertaining acts to celebrate multiculturalism and gather toys for young people at the 10th annual Multicultural Holiday Celebration and Youth Gift Drive that took place on Nov. 28 at THEARC’s Black Box Theater.

“This evening is all about the children,” said Philip Pannell, executive director of the Anacostia Coordinating Council that served as the primary sponsor of the event. “For the past nine years, we have held this celebration at the Anacostia Playhouse. We decided that we needed a bigger space this year and we got THEARC.”

The Anacostia Coordinating Council (ACC) started in 1983 as a volunteer, membership consortium of organizations and individuals seeking to improve the life of residents in the Historic Anacostia neighborhood. The building and the opening of the Anacostia Metro Station on the Green Line stand as the ACC’s most notable achievement. Throughout the years, the ACC has held voter registration drives, candidate forums, blood donor and HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention campaigns, in addition to continuing its work advocating for Ward 8 residents. The holiday celebration was aimed at gathering and giving toys for the attendees of the 7th Metropolitan Police District Christmas party that occurs this month.

Rashaan Bernard, the president of Building Bridges Across the River, the nonprofit organization that manages THEARC, said allowing the ACC to use its space for the program wasn’t a difficult decision.

“It’s hard to say no to Philip Pannell,” Bernard said. “He made it happen in this room.”

The entertainment

A mannequin representing the 19th-century civil and human rights leader Frederick Douglass, who lived in Anacostia later in his life, was part of the night’s entertainment. 

The artificial Douglass was set in revolving room and spoke to the audience standing in front of a chair in what looked like a library. The replica talked about his life’s fight for freedom and the importance of African Americans to continue the struggle for justice and equality.

After the Douglass presentation, Anacostia resident and president of the Ward 8 Democrats Troy Donte Prestwood sang a rendition of “Silver Bells.” Many in the crowd seemed pleasantly surprised at Prestwood’s ability to use his baritone voice to sing the lyrics. Later in the program, Prestwood’s performance singing “This Christmas” provoked people to dance in the aisles while singing along.

Performers from the Children’s Legacy Theater, based in Ward 8, performed a skit from James Baldwin’s “The Amen Corner.” Jackie Carter, the founder and director of the Children’s Legacy Theatre, said her pupils deserve to be paid for their efforts.

“They have been working hard on their craft,” Carter said. “They deserve to be compensated. Please come out and support us.”

D.C. Attorney General-elect Brian Schwalb talked about Hanukkah, a Jewish-oriented holiday that spans a few days in December.

“I know a lot of you believe in miracles,” he said. “Miracles happen in small little ways and some big ways. I know there have been times in your life when you didn’t know how you were going to make it through. But a miracle happened and you did.”

Schwalb talked about a group called the Maccabees,  who about 2,500 years ago kept the light in their sacred temple burning for eight days even though they had a one-day supply of oil. After his presentation, members of the audience received small pieces of chocolates in the shape of coins to munch on as a remembrance of Hanukkah.

After Schwalb’s presentation, Lionel Gaines talked about the seven principles of Kwanzaa. After citing each principle, an audience member lit a candle in recognition of it.

On behalf of the ACC, Pannell presented outgoing Ward 8 advisory neighborhood commissioner Olivia Henderson a check, whose residence recently burned down. In addition to the funds for  her losses, Pannell urged the gathering to support Henderson in her time of need. Henderson expressed satisfaction with getting the check but told the audience something that pleased her even more.

“I haven’t gotten so much support from the community,” she said with tears rolling down her cheeks. “My son and I really appreciate this and we love you all.”

The evening’s entertainment ended with singers JaMarcus Bonds and J’Ta Freeman. Many in the audience expressed delight when ACC staffer and community activist Stuart Anderson, dressed as Santa Claus, passed out treats.

James Wright Jr.

James Wright Jr. is the D.C. political reporter for the Washington Informer Newspaper. He has worked for the Washington AFRO-American Newspaper as a reporter, city editor and freelance writer and The Washington...

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