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     A time of gathering, a time of reverence, a time of commemoration, a time of commitment and a time of celebration — these are the fundamental beliefs that mark the celebration of Kwanzaa.
    For those not in the know, Kwanzaa is an African-American holiday that celebrates family, community and culture. In the United States, the holiday is celebrated from Dec. 26 through Jan. 1. Locally, Kwanzaa will be celebrated on Saturday, Dec. 27, from 5-8 p.m. at Reid Ross Classical School.
    {mosimage}The annual event brings the community together to honor its heritage and culture. It is sponsored by the Umoja Group, which is dedicated to preserving and celebrating African-American history and heritage. The group, whose name means “unity” in Swahili, organizes annual Kwanzaa and Umoja festivals and a commemoration of the birth of Malcolm X. There will be traditional dancing, food, a parade of kings and queens, as well as the lighting of the seven pillars, which are the foundations of the celebration, according to event organizers.
    The event has its roots in ancient Egyptian and Nubian celebrations of the harvest or first fruits. The name Kwanzaa is derived from the phrase “Matunda ya Kwanza,” which means “first fruits” in Swahili. While it is celebrated throughout the African word, Kwanzaa celebrations began in America 42 years ago. Kwanzaa was established in 1966 as an offshoot of the Black Freedom Movement. The Organization Us founded Kwanzaa celebrations in the United States under the leadership of Dr. Maulana Karenga, a professor of African Studies at California State University, Long Beach, to reaffirm and restore the African-American roots in African culture, to serve as a communal celebration to reaffirm and reinforce bonds between African-Americans as a people and to introduce and reinforce the Nguzo Saba (the Seven Principles) that are communitarian African values.
    The seven principles celebrated during Kwanzaa are: Umoja (unity), Kujichagulia (self-determination), Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility), Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics), Nia (Purpose), Kuumba (Creativity), and Imani (Faith).
    The last day of Kwanzaa is Jan. 1. Historically, as it is in all cultures, it has been a time for African people to reflect on what has happened and what has to be done. It is a time of self-reflection. In the modern celebration of Kwanzaa, the new year is deemed a Day of Meditation.
    There is no cost to participate in the Kwanzaa celebrations; however, participants are asked to bring a covered dish to share with their neighbors. For more information, call 488-7130 or 488-6152.

Contact Janice Burton at [email protected]
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