The American Museum of Natural History recently hosted its 34th annual Kwanzaa celebration. Presented in association with Community Works and New Heritage Theater Works, “Kwanzaa 2012: First Fruits of the Harvest” was held in the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life. Under the stunning 94-foot-long fiberglass replica of a female blue whale, visitors enjoyed stirring performances from Underground System Afrobeat and dance groups Soul Steps, Restoration Dance Theater Company and Balance Dance Theater. The program was hosted by master storyteller and actress Linda Humes.

The Kwanzaa festivities continued in the museum’s food court, where guests enjoyed signature foods like sweet potatoes, corn bread and collard greens created by famed restaurateur B. Smith, who also participated in a Q&A with the audience, sharing her own healthy twists on the traditional Kwanzaa feast. Visitors could also test their culinary IQ with super foodies from the James Beard Foundation and enjoy a host of family friendly hands on activities as well as an African marketplace.

The festivities ended with a closing ceremony, followed by a screening of “The Black Candle,” a documentary by author and filmmaker M.K. Asante Jr. Narrated by world-renowned poet Maya Angelou and featuring an all-star cast, including Kwanzaa founder Dr. Maulana Karenga, NFL legend Jim Brown, hip-hop artist Chuck D and others, the celebratory film shows how the seven principles of Kwanzaa (Unity, Self-Determination, Collective Work and Responsibility, Cooperative Economics, Purpose, Creativity and Faith) are a critical part of Black culture.