From the Slave Quarters to Kwanzaa at the Ethnic Heritage Museum

Each year during the holiday season, the Ethnic Heritage Museum looks its festive best as it showcases the holiday traditions of the museum’s six ethnic groups: African American, Hispanic, Irish, Italian, Lithuanian, and Polish. All of the galleries celebrate Christmas and this year the African American Gallery is also celebrating Kwanzaa.

As a special treat, the African American Gallery is hosting “From the Slave Quarters to Kwanzaa” written, produced and directed by Dorothy Paige-Turner on Sunday, December 18. The Museum will open at 2 p.m. and the performance will go from 2:30-4 p.m.

In “From the Slave Quarters to Kwanzaa” project performing artists will share stories of Christmas and “Big Times” that span the period from enslavement to freedom to the celebration of the non-religious holiday Kwanzaa. Some of the stories include: “Christmas in the Big House/Christmas in the Quarters”; a tender story of two sharecropping families – one black and one white; an adapted Christmas folk tale of Br’er Rabbit and Br’er Fox; a beautiful story of Hanukah and Christmas shared between an elderly Black man and a nine year old Jewish boy, to name a few. The performance will conclude with a Kwanzaa celebration.  Music will include spirituals and songs that help to extend each story’s message. Poetry, and a slave dance called “pattin’ the juba” will be interspersed throughout the scenes and stories.

Artists performing in “From the Slave Quarters to Kwanzaa” are George Davis, Climmie Durr, Elbert James, Carl Kole, Joan E. Kole, Richard Meeks, Jackie Tenard, Carl Towns, Coleen Martin Williams, Janniel Wright and Janet Wright.

The creator of this event, Dorothy Paige-Turner is a retired elementary school music educator from RPS 205. As an educator, she has taught music education and creative arts spanning over 45 years. As a performing artist, Dorothy has graced the stage in musical, symphonies, concert bands, and jazz ensembles throughout the Midwest. She currently performs with the Joel Ross Quartet.  She is a five time RAMI winner in the Best Traditional Jazz Category.

Dorothy has written plays focusing on many various human conditions. “Candles in the dark – spiritually gifted women in the Bible” is currently touring the Rockford area. She was the co-director and co-playwright of “Araminta – Life of Harriet Tubman”, a musical play featuring over 90 youths from our community ranging in age from 8-10 years old. Dorothy wrote “Happily Ever After” for Janet Wattles which explores the many mental disorders that afflict children. She is the creator, coordinator and director of a Reader’s Theater Series at Just Goods.

Dorothy has recorded over five albums which earned her a place in RAMI Hall of Fame, Lifetime Achievement Award, the Mayor’s Award for the Arts and the Blanche Ellis Starr Award for the Arts among many outstanding community service awards.

The “From the Slave Quarters to Kwanzaa” project is partially supported by a grant from the Rockford Area Arts Council which receives support from the City of Rockford, the Illinois Arts Council Agency and its members.

The Ethnic Heritage Museum preserves the cultural history of six ethnic groups that have contributed greatly to the development of southwest Rockford, the place where Rockford began. The museum is open each Sunday through December from 2-4 p.m. General admission to the museum is $5 per adult, $3 per student, or $10 per family or free to museum members. The “From the Slave Quarters to Kwanzaa” event on December 18 is free to the public but donations would be appreciated.

Museum is handicap accessible with entrance on Loomis Street – on street parking available. There is additional parking in the lot on the corner of Main and Morgan Streets next to the Graham-Ginestra House. Tour can be arranged my calling 815-962-7402.  For more information visit

Feliz Navidad from the Hispanic Gallery, Happy Kwanzaa from the African American Gallery, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from the Ethnic Heritage Museum.

–Ethnic Heritage Museum

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