Uniting the Christmas tradition--both commercial and spiritual--with the heritage of Ghana, Kente Claus was born when an African American child asked Philly-soul musician and entrepreneur Ken Stafford, "When I go to heaven, will I be a white angel?"
Stafford had no immediate answer, but he and his wife Shereen took the question to heart. Noting the lack of ethnic diversity in the gift industry, they created a line of African American angels in 1994, and, soon thereafter, the figure of Kente Claus, a Santa dressed in the cloth robes of Ghana's Kente people.
The story of Kente Claus is but one portion of a Christmas program that the renowned Harlem Boys Choir will bring to Tucson this weekend. Founded in the troubled year of 1968 to help keep Harlem schoolchildren "focused on positive goals," the choir has grown to number more than 250 members, and its touring companies have performed all over the world, sharing the stage with the likes of Luciano Pavarotti and Mandy Patinkin.
The Tucson concerts--marking the first time the group has appeared here--will include a mix of African American spirituals, classical hymns and a few show tunes and pop standards along the lines of "The Little Drummer Boy" and "Winter Wonderland."
The Harlem Boys Choir will appear at the University of Arizona's Centennial Hall on Saturday, December 9, at 8 p.m., and Sunday, December 10, at 4 p.m. Tickets cost between $22 and $34, with discounts for UA employees and students. James Karge-Taylor and Josef Knott of the UA dance and music departments will host a free discussion 45 minutes before both performances in Room 102 of the Center for English as a Second Language. For more information, call 621-3341.