Release Date: 
Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Student Alanna Schwartz presents Kwanzaa Art Show for Black History Month

Headshot of Alanna Schwartz

HFC student Alanna Grace-Marie Schwartz – a member of the Henry Ford II Honors Program and the Black Male and QUEENS Focus Group (BMQFG) – will present the Kwanzaa Art Show on Wednesday, Feb. 10, at noon, as part of HFC’s Black History Month: Building for Eternity celebration. Sponsored by the BMQFG, this is a virtual event. It is free and open to the public.

Attend the art show Wednesday, Feb. 10, noon.

Kwanzaa – which means “first fruits” – is an annual celebration of African-American culture that is held from Dec. 26 to Jan. 1, culminating in a communal feast called Karamu, which is usually held on the sixth day. The holiday – created by Dr. Maulana Karenga in 1966 – focuses on what it means to be African and human in the fullest sense. Kwanzaa is a community-oriented celebration that focuses on all aspects of family, including those who are present and those in the ancestral realm.

“Kwanzaa is for everyone, so sharing this information with the public is my way of providing education of culture and love to our society,” explained Schwartz. “I will be presenting my digital art series about the African celebration of life, Kwanzaa. I was inspired to create this series by HFC sociology professor Dr. Kalvin DaRonne Harvell, the BMQFG faculty advisor. He is the one who has been teaching me about African traditions, thus bringing me closer to my roots and familiarizing me with my culture. I created this art to showcase my artistic expression and interpretations and also to educate the public about each day of Kwanzaa and its significance.”

Harvell’s lecture changed her career path

Initially, Schwartz, an honors graduate of Lincoln Park High School, was majoring in studio art at HFC. She changed course after attending Harvell’s lecture, “An Uncomfortable Alliance: Racial Microaggressions and the College Campus”.

Schwartz changed her major to liberal arts, with a focus on sociology. She will graduate from HFC in 2022. Then she will transfer to the University of Michigan (U-M) in Ann Arbor, where she will major in sociology with a focus on racial and ethnic diversity. She has been accepted into the U-M Mellon Scholars Research Fellowship program.

While her ultimate goal is to become a sociology professor, art remains one of Schwartz’s interests and passions. She is working on a documentary about the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA), where she was a frequent visitor prior to the coronavirus pandemic. This documentary will measure the importance of the DIA in people’s lives, regardless of their backgrounds and occupations. For the U-M Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP), she is working on a project called “Museum and Publics: Engaging Detroit, Berlin, and the Future of the City.”

Inspired by Mexican painter Frida Kahlo

Schwartz’s favorite artist and biggest influence on her artistry is the Mexican painter Frida Kahlo.

“I learned about Frida Kahlo while I was in high school, at a time when I truly needed her inspiration and guidance. She helped me become comfortable in my own skin and embrace all the adversity I faced and continue to face. Her feminist ideology promoted my confidence and individuality. I feel deeply connected to her spiritually,” said Schwartz. “I am inspired by all types of art. I find inspiration from such pieces and use my talent and skills to create my personal art.”

She’s looking forward to presenting the Kwanzaa Art Show.

“My favorite part of Kwanzaa is the rich connection between my fellow brothers and sisters, as well as the connection we cherish with Mother Nature,” said Schwartz. “I am a vegan advocate, and I believe our connection with nature is extremely important. I value each of the principles of Kwanzaa in my everyday life, and this is how I live my life to its fullest. By honoring my ancestors and reflecting on the principles throughout the year – not only during February – is how I celebrate.”