Kwanzaa was started in 1966 by Maulana Karenga on the west coast. It is a cultural family and community celebration of African American heritage celebrated by millions in the world and that is why the Umoja Group presents their celebration of Kwanzaa on Saturday, Dec. 27 from 5-8 pm at Smith Recreation Center.
“Everyone is supposed to bring a favorite dish this year such as a casserole or a jug of tea,” said Dorothy Fielder, director of the Umoja Group. “This celebration is important to have because African-American children do not know their history, greatness or positive aspects of black life and it is important that they know their value.” Fielder added that they are trying to pass on what they do to the younger generation so that it will continue when they retire or die.
Kwanzaa was established as a means to help African Americans reconnect with their African culture and historical heritage. It has 7 principles and they are things that a person can live by. The principles are in the Swahili language and contribute to building and reinforcing family, community and culture among African Americans. There is a traditionally established way of celebrating Kwanzaa and it is celebrated on December 26 through January 1.
“There will be a candlelight ceremony in which 7 children will come up and say a principle and mention a hero of theirs that represents that principle,” said Fielder. “Then we will have the parade of kings and queens.” Fielder added that this year they are asking everyone to read about one of the pharaohs and they are using the reference of National Geographic’s February 2008 issue that tells about the different black pharaohs of Egypt. “I think that it is important because our young people need to know that we came from kings and queens and we can have the same kinds of values that they had,” said Felder. “Those values were self-determination, cooperative work and economics.”
There will be drummers and a dance group for entertainment. The Umoja Group will accept donations for Operation Blessings because there is a need for coats, hats, gloves and nonperishable food items. The items can be dropped off at the Smith Recreation Center. The organization encourages young people to continue their education by awarding a scholarship to a graduating senior from E. E. Smith High School for college.
“This is a time for fellowship and getting to know more about our heritage,” said Fielder. “We welcome everyone to come out and participate in this celebration.”
The event is free and open to the public. For more information call 483-6152.
Photo: Kwanzaa isn’t intended to replace Christmas or other religious holidays, but rather complement them in a season full of ancient traditions and celebration.