Marie Y. Lemelle (Courtesy photo)

During the global pandemic and civil unrest, devastation, and aftermath, can the guiding seven principles of Kwanzaa offer change to the world?

Kwanzaa: A Celebration of Unity,” presented by The Robey Theatre Company and directed by Ben Guillory, was conceptualized by playwright Marie Y. Lemelle to explore the possibilities of how Kwanzaa can unite people on a global level and help them embrace their differences.

“In the late 60s, during the aftermath of the Watts riots, Dr. Maulana Karenga created Kwanzaa, an African American celebration of culture and tradition,” said Lemelle, the creator and lead writer of the play with co-writer, Barbara Bullen.

“As an activist and writer, my vision was to amplify the purpose and re-visit the intention about Kwanzaa and its seven principles (unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith), especially during the pandemic, the deadliest time in modern history, and the civil unrest sparked by the horrific public murder of George Floyd. I am thankful for the Robey Theatre Company’s platform,” she added.

The virtual performance opens on the first day of Kwanzaa on Sunday, December 26, at 3 p.m. PST and runs from December 27, through January 1, at 7 p.m. PST.  To watch the free performance, register in advance at to receive Zoom links.

Barbara Bullen (Courtesy photo)

The play is set during the global pandemic. In the midst of civil unrest, devastation, and its aftermath, a resolute Afrocentric history professor, Dr. Agu, challenges a multi-national group of college students during virtual classroom sessions while quarantine-stranded in Ghana on his own personal journey to uncover his roots.

To address current world events of social injustice and amplify Black awareness, Dr. Agu sublimely changes the narrative to dig deeper into civil rights history and how Kwanzaa values could be the solution to our racial divide. On the other hand, his U.S.-based pupils are not quite ready for the truth about prejudice, racism, and inequality or how life lessons based on the Kwanzaa celebration can be a solution and change the world.

“Marie Lemellle and Barbara Bullen were commissioned to write the play that was developed and produced by The Robey Theatre Company,” said co-founder Guillory who served as dramaturge to the playwrights. “Marie and Barbara did a wonderful job in writing the play and creating the characters. We assembled 14 diverse actors,” said Guillory in an interview on the “Our Society Show with Allen Shay.”

Ben Guillory (Courtesy photo)

“Kwanzaa’s seven principles end up being a part of the lives of these students. The students put the principles into practice, not just academically, but walk away with these principles, as part of their consciousness; however, there is a huge conflict in the class because racism rears its ugly head as so often does in the classroom,” he said.

“My character is Penny Jones who is into civil rights and Kwanzaa and wants to learn more. It’s really interesting to watch the evolution of the characters from different backgrounds to have intense discussions and at times come together. Some people have different intentions than others in this beautifully written play,” said actor Christina Childress is originally from Memphis, Tennessee.“  This play brought me back to that place of how hateful the world can be.”

Guillory directs a cast that includes Jermaine AlexanderJC CadenaChildressGarret DavisMatt JenningsNate LovellTerry “Tes” Scott-MitchellMona MohamedCrystal NixAmara PhelpsKe ShiKyle SparksWilliam WarrenJess Weaver, and Guillory as Maulana Karenga.

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