Marianne Powell reflects on how faith guided the past year of her life during a public Kwanzaa celebration in Flossmoor Park. Powell’s daughter JaOni Rousseau stands with her. (Bill Jones/H-F Chronicle)
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Kwanzaa Night 7: Marianne Powell closes Flossmoor’s weeklong celebration after yearlong journey

Marianne Powell promised herself she would not get emotional, but she paused for just a moment as she started to tell her story. The past year, after all, was a year of change for Powell. And she was about to address a small crowd gathered at Flossmoor Park on the final night of Kwanzaa.

“Faith has kept me in 2022 and has brought me to 2023,” Powell said. “I’m such a happier person than I was last year. I am just excited for what is to come.”

Marianne Powell and her daughter JaOni Rousseau light all seven candles on the kinara Sunday, Jan. 1, to finish the community celebration of Kwanzaa at Flossmoor Park. (Bill Jones/H-F Chronicle)
Marianne Powell and her daughter JaOni Rousseau light all seven candles on the kinara Sunday, Jan. 1, to finish the community celebration of Kwanzaa at Flossmoor Park. (Bill Jones/H-F Chronicle)

Powell, who has lived in Flossmoor for a dozen years, did the honors of lighting all seven candles on the kinara during the final night of the village’s public celebration of Kwanzaa, Sunday, Jan. 1. Exactly one year prior, she was in the same spot — literally — lighting the kinara for her first time in Flossmoor Park and talking about the seventh-day principle of Imani (faith).

But on that night in 2022, the snow was coming down and the wind was blowing — literally and figuratively. Powell’s life was starting to move in a new direction. And ever since Kwanzaa came to a close last year, she found herself thinking about faith.

“I’m grateful for the journey of Imani, because without it, I wouldn’t be here,” she told the crowd. “We wouldn’t be here. We have to live on faith. That is what gets us through everyday life.”

Marianne Powell reflects on how faith guided the past year of her life during a public Kwanzaa celebration in Flossmoor Park. Powell’s daughter JaOni Rousseau stands with her. (Bill Jones/H-F Chronicle)
Marianne Powell reflects on how faith guided the past year of her life during a public Kwanzaa celebration in Flossmoor Park. Powell’s daughter JaOni Rousseau stands with her. (Bill Jones/H-F Chronicle)

Powell’s family has a day care in the city called Imani Children’s Academy. Her mother, a woman of faith, had changed the name to that back in 2005.

“Our motto was faith that all children can succeed,” Powell said.

But because of the pandemic and a downturn in enrollment, Powell has found herself “slowly retiring” from childcare. So last year, just 18 days after lighting the kinara, she enrolled in esthetics school. Despite her prior education and experience all dealing with children, she loved beauty and wanted to try something new.

“I trudged through that year of that program on faith,” Powell said. “I’m proud to say I graduated, I finished.”

Now, she finds herself embarking on another career, working as an esthetician at Thairapy Beauty & Wellness in downtown Flossmoor. And she credited the community connections and her friendships in the village with bringing positives into her life and helping her get to where she is today. She encouraged all to have faith in who they want to be and succeed.

“I’m happy to be able to come back a year to date to give my story of a positive journey,” Powell said.

Attendees pose for a photo near the kinara with Marianne Powell and her children after the community celebrated the seventh night of Kwanzaa at Flossmoor Park. (Bill Jones/H-F Chronicle)
Attendees pose for a photo near the kinara with Marianne Powell and her children after the community celebrated the seventh night of Kwanzaa at Flossmoor Park. (Bill Jones/H-F Chronicle)

Powell added that though she has “been around Kwanzaa” all her life, she never celebrated the holiday before she started helping with the village’s observation. She wanted to take part to give back to her community and help Flossmoor celebrate different cultures.

“I think it’s a wonderful thing,” Powell said. “That’s what makes us unique and diverse.”

Flossmoor Trustee Rosalind Mustafa was in attendance for the final day of Kwanzaa and helped Powell and her daughter JaOni Rousseau with the lighting. She also provided some information about the symbols and meanings associated with the holiday for Powell and her family.

“This is so interesting for my children to know what it means to celebrate Kwanzaa,” Powell said. “I just enjoy for my children to learn those things, too.”

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