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December 18, 2012 > Happy Kwanzaa!

Happy Kwanzaa!

By Jessica Nol Flohr

As the newcomer, Kwanzaa is not as familiar as some other winter holidays. Kwanzaa is a uniquely African American festival. First celebrated in the United States in the late 1960s, it was created by author and activist, Dr. Maulana Karenga, a professor at CSU Long Beach in Southern California. He founded this non-religious holiday partly in response to the commercialism of Christmas, and as a way of uniting the African American community by creating a holiday formulated from cultural traditions. The seven principles of Kwanzaa are: unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith.

Kwanzaa, the name of the holiday, comes from the Swahili phrase "mutanda ya kwanza," which means "first fruits." A weeklong celebration beginning the day after Christmas, December 26, Kwanzaa is a festival of culture and community. Included are songs, stories, family meals, and lighting of the "Kinara," a special candleholder for the seven nights of Kwanzaa, one black, three red, and three green. On each night of Kwanzaa, a different candle is lit and one of the seven founding principles of Kwanzaa is discussed.

Symbolic items are representations of crops, reminders of the work of the harvest and the rewards of the labor. A special mat called the "mkeka" represents the foundation upon which family and community is built. The candle holder symbolizes the roots of the African people, corn is a fertility symbol and represents children, a unity cup is used to pour out libations of alcohol for relatives who have passed on from this life, and the candle colors represent African gods. Special gifts are given to family and friends; homemade presents are especially prized.

Karenga focuses on what Dr. Karenga refers to as "ethical common ground." In an interview on, he said, "Kwanzaa brings a cultural message which speaks to the best of what it means to be both African and human in its stress on four pillars of African ethics: the dignity and rights of the human person, the well being and flourishing of family and community, the integrity and value of the environment, and the reciprocal solidarity and cooperation for mutual benefit of humanity." Kwanzaa is a span of holy days uplifting humanity to a higher calling-that of striving to be better men and women in our families and communities.

The Afro American Cultural and Historical Society of the Tri-City will celebrate Kwanzaa on Saturday, December 29 at the Palma Ceia Baptist Church in Hayward. All are invited to attend this free event.

Kwanzaa Celebration
Saturday, Dec 29
6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Palma Ceia Baptist Church
28605 Ruus Rd., Hayward
(510) 786-2866

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