Brooklyn’s sixth annual Kwanzaa Crawl worked its way through the center of the borough Tuesday as upwards of 5,000 revelers gathered to celebrate, support Black-owned businesses, celebrate Black culture, remember the principles of Kwanzaa … and to party.
“This is not just a bar crawl, this is a community,” said organizer Kerry Coddett, noting that the event took place on the first day of Kwanzaa, the day for celebrating unity.
The largest community Kwanzaa gathering of its kind — last year local Black-owned businesses reaped some $500,000 from the one-day event — Kwanzaa Crawl worked its way through some 50 participating venues in Bed-Stuy, Bushwick, Crown Heights and Park Slope.
The day started with an opening ceremony that included the lighting of candles, and the singing of the Black national anthem at the new Crown Hill Theatre in Crown Heights.
“This crawl embodies all seven principles of Kwanzaa: unity, cooperative economics, collective work, creativity, faith, purpose, and self-determination,” said Coddett to cheers as she lit the first of seven corresponding symbolic candles on stage.
From there, attendees joined one of 55 teams and dispersed to various selected locations around the borough in something of a celebratory scavenger hunt.
“We get to decide what Kwanzaa looks like for us,” said Coddett. “It’s a non-denominational holiday for all Black people across the diaspora to get together and celebrate their Blackness.”
While the crawl was a joyous affair about uplift, it was born out of a time of trauma and reflection in Black communities faced with institutional violence across the country.
“Right now life is a little gloomy if you look on the news,” said Coddett. “It just seems like there’s so much darkness and despair and so this really reminds us to celebrate each other and that there’s nothing more important than being in this moment.”
Attendees, ranging from veterans to first-timers, echoed the importance of community, especially in difficult times.
“I was like, ‘Yeah, it would be nice to have a community feel instead of being home alone’,” said Norma Diana Stanton. “I’m not that familiar with Kwanzaa so I’m learning.”
She was with a friend, Tracey Dixon, who was also new to the crawl. “I’m from the Caribbean and I love that different Black people are coming together,” said Dixon. “It’s nice that I can be from another place and still come together with Black people from America, that the diaspora of Black peoples can celebrate together.”
Here are a few more scenes from Kwanzaa Crawl 2o23.