The Kuumba Singers of Harvard College celebrate the African-American aural tradition, and have done so for almost 40 years. The singers held their annual winter concerts, a holiday tradition of songs and dances, in Memorial Hall in early December.

The group’s Web site says its name was chosen because it “allowed for all modes of diasporic expression. In Swahili, ‘kuumba’ roughly means creativity, though the literal meaning is more subtle: It is the creativity of leaving a space better than you found it.”

Kuumba singer Amber James ’11 added, “The songs we sing and the dances we do and the poems we read, they are all designed to bring people together in celebration of black creativity and spirituality. The concert is so moving because of the range of emotions that are represented in music from the black diaspora. Pain, sorrow, strength, resilience, peace, joy, love, and countless others are all intensely felt through the music and movements.”

Harvard Kuumba Singers

Kris Snibbe/Harvard Staff Photographer

  • Dancer in red

    Dancer in red

    A singing and swaying Amber James '11 at rehearsal for the Kuumba Winter Concert inside the Memorial Church.

  • A chorus line

    A chorus line

    Matthews Mmopi '11 (from left, red shirt), Nathan Whitfield '09, Omobolaji Ogunsola '10, Amber James '11, Kaydene Grinnell '10, and Marissa Glynias '12 rehearse for the Kuumba Winter Concert.

  • Full house

    Full house

    Under the Memorial Church's white pillars, a rapt audience watches as the Kuumba Singers process to the stage.

  • Dressed to sing

    Dressed to sing

    Darkly and festively draped, the Kuumba Singers unite.

  • Flight of the Kuumba Singers

    Flight of the Kuumba Singers

    This regal-looking statue overhears Maxwell Nwaru '10 rehearsing.

  • Singing from the heart

    Singing from the heart

    Impassioned vocalists Omobolaji Ogunsola '10 (from left), Amber James '11, Kaydene Grinnell '10, and Marissa Glynias '12 give it all they've got.