Opposing sides prepare to go to court in Kwanzaa debate - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Reported by Ben Watson

Opposing sides prepare to go to court in Kwanzaa debate

One day before a proposed Kwanzaa celebration inside the chambers of the Shelby County Commission, it seemed likely the only way Commissioner Henri Brooks and Probate Court Clerk Chris Thomas were going to solve their differences was by fighting it out in court.

Brooks will try to convince a judge that Kwanzaa is a cultural celebration, and not a religious event, as Thomas alleges in a lawsuit to trying prohibit any Kwanzaa celebrations on county property.

"It's a religious thing, so they should not be having it on county property, when the county attorney told me I couldn't have a Christmas celebration," Thomas said. "So that's why I'm very frustrated, and I'm prepared to do what ever it takes to stop it."

Brooks claims Thomas is mistaken about the seven-day long Kwanzaa celebration, saying it is designed to promote unity and cooperation in the community.

"I think its really good that the public be able to come to a public building- a building that their tax dollars pay for- and get information that they can use to better their quality of life," she said.

Thomas was not convinced.

"It's a double standard, and I'm tired of that," he said. "This is not black and white. This about what is right and about Christians and Jews and other faiths being discriminated against, and the county government should not be involved in this.  They shouldn't have any event like this sponsored."

Brooks said for the past 12 years, she has hosted her Kwanzaa celebration at the Pink Palace, but was forced to move this year after the facility asked for $300 to host the event.

Both sides are scheduled to appear in court Wednesday morning.  The Kwanzaa celebration is planned for Wednesday evening in the chambers of the Shelby County Commission.

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