By C.J. Hirschfield
“I adore them,” says Patricia Hall of her 9- and 5-year-old granddaughters, Nia and Nylah, who live in Piedmont. An internationally acclaimed dancer, choreographer, and NYU professor, Pat visits her “grands,” as she calls them, twice a year from her home in New York, and Children’s Fairyland is always on their itinerary.
“Sometimes we go every day,” she says. “It’s just a wonderful place to learn, explore, and most important—to have fun.”
Last year she and Nia and Nylah visited us during our Fairy Winterland holiday celebration. In our Reading Room, they saw our exhibits explaining Diwali, Chanukah and Kwanzaa. Pat was very pleased that we’d acknowledged Kwanzaa, but, she said diplomatically, “I thought it could be more.”
She approached a member of our team and offered to create a display for the 2016 holiday. Needless to say, we happily accepted her offer.
Kwanzaa is a secular, cultural festival, observed by many African Americans, that lasts from Dec. 26 through Jan. 1. Based on African harvest festivals, it honors African heritage and celebrates seven principles with Swahili names. Translated, they are: unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith. “Kwanzaa” comes from a Swahili phrase, matunda ya kwanza, which means “first fruits.” Pat’s 9-year-old granddaughter is named after one of the principles: Nia, or purpose.
|Pat Hall's daughter, Nairobi Kim, adjusts the Kwanzaa display in our Reading Room.|
When Nia and Nylah visited Pat in New York for Thanksgiving this year, it was decided that they would all work on the Kwanzaa project together. They visited a teachers’ store for materials and a Staples store to blow up the images. Big sister Nia happens to love to type, so she wrote up the principles. Younger sister Nylah, who already considers herself an artist, helped design the kente-cloth border. “They were learning as they were helping,” Pat says.
The grands’ mom, Nairobi Kim, agrees. Once they’d returned to the East Bay, Nairobi overheard a conversation between Nia and her Jewish friend Sarah about their respective holidays. It was the first time Nairobi had heard her daughter describe all of Kwanzaa’s principles out loud. Sarah’s response: “Really? That’s so cool!”
|Nairobi Kim in front of our new and improved Kwanzaa display. Kwanzaa begins on Dec. 26 and ends on Jan. 1.|
But the girls hadn’t finished the project before they left New York, and it was up to Pat to collect the mat, candle holder, candles, corn and unity cup to complete the display. She shipped it to her daughter, and Nairobi came by Fairyland the other day to install it. Her enthusiasm was apparent, and so was ours. The display is beautiful, and we’re sure that the thousands of people we’ll be welcoming will enjoy learning about Kwanzaa.
“It was a real labor of love,” Pat says.
Three generations of the family will be represented when Pat comes to town to visit this winter, during our Grandparents’ Week, right after Christmas.
Although we’ve never done this before, we are hereby designating Patricia Hall as Fairyland’s official Grandparent of the Year. “Grandparents sort of sprinkle stardust over the lives of little children,” said Alex Haley, the author of “Roots.” We appreciate one grandmother who did just that for so many of our community’s children through her wisdom and generosity.
C.J. Hirschfield has served for 14 years as executive director of Children's Fairyland, where she is charged with the overall operation of the nation's first storybook theme park.