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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
January 7, 2005

BlackOuts harvest festival yields new womens program director

Cleveland--BlackOut Unlimited�s Kwanzaa celebration on December 29 served two purposes, exposing members of the Brother�s Circle men�s group to the identity-building holiday and presenting the new director of the organization�s women�s programming, Deb Sharp.

Sharp, who works for the Ohio lottery as a subcontractor, led the Kwanzaa service with Jamie Q. Moon, a member of the Brother�s Circle.

The celebration�s name comes from the Swahili for �first fruits,� harkening back to African harvest festivals.

Introduced by Dr. Maulana Karenga in 1966, the holiday takes place over the seven days from December 26 to January 1, each day focusing on one of the nguzo saba, the seven principles: unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith.

The holiday, which is not religious, was conceived as a means of uniting the African diaspora and imbuing a sense of identity rooted in the values of Africa and the connections between people of African descent around the world.

That kind of unity is one of the things Sharp is striving to create with the women�s program.

�I feel that it�s important for us to be together as a community, physically, emotionally, financially . . . to be together as a complete person,� she said.

�I guess my whole concept for the women�s circle is for us to get together and share ideas,� she continued.

Sharp noted that, following the success of BlackOut�s women�s conference at Bounce on November 21, plans are underway to continue a series of monthly workshops called Survival 2005. The next one will be �Finance 101� on January 30, although the location has not been finalized yet. Those interested in attending should call BlackOut at 216-9372268 for details or to be added to the e-mail list.

�There�s no reason why Cleveland�s women�s community can�t be like D.C. or Atlanta,� she noted.

�Pretty much every topic that we have to deal with will be covered at some point,� she noted, pointing to subjects as varied as parenting, relationships, computers, finance and domestic violence. �It�s open to the lesbians in the community, what they want to see and what they want to do. I�m looking to create a successful program.�

Sharp will also be updating BlackOut�s long-neglected web site to make it a clearinghouse for the organization�s programs and activities.

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