By MURPHY BROWNE
It’s beginning to look a lot like Kwanzaa! Yes, African people, it is that time of year again. Time to celebrate, celebrate, celebrate Kwanzaa!
On Thursday, December 31 at 100 Devonshire Place from 2:30 to 6:00 p.m. there will be a free community celebration of Kuumba (Creativity) the sixth Kwanzaa principle and you are all invited to come out and express your creative side. Cooks, drummers, dancers, mathematicians, poets, scientists, singers, storytellers, come out and share your talent, dazzle us with your creativity.
Kwanzaa is a Pan African celebration of African culture and history, commemoration of African achievement, recognition of African ancestors and a time for us to gather and, like the Adinkra Sankofa symbol, reflect on the past year and look forward to the future. During the celebration of Kwanzaa, we can take the time to learn the words of an African language, Kiswahili. Kiswahili is the most widely spoken African language just as English is the most widely spoken European language.
Kwanzaa comes from the Kiswahili phrase “matunda ya kwanza” which means “first fruits”. An extra “a” was added to the end of the word to make it a seven-letter word since the number seven is repeated in the theme surrounding the celebration.
The celebration encompasses seven days, seven principles and seven symbols. The seven symbols are the mkeka (mat), kinara (candle holder), mishumaa saba (seven candles), mazao (crops/fruits and vegetables), muhindi (ears of corn), kikombe cha umoja (unity cup) and zawadi (gifts). The seven symbols are laid out on the Kwanzaa table with the mkeka (mat) as the base.
The other six symbols are placed on the mkeka. The kinara (candle holder) is placed in the middle of the mkeka and the mishumaa saba (seven candles) are placed in the kinara. The black candle is placed in the middle of the kinara with the three red candles to the left and the three green candles to the right.
The muhindi (ears of corn) represents the children of the family or the children of the community. One ear of corn for each child in the family is placed on the mkeka and if there are no children in the home two ears of corn are used in a symbolic representation of the African proverb “it takes a village to raise a child”. The kikombe cha umoja, mazao and zawadi are added to complete the Kwanzaa table setting. Zawadi (gifts) are given to the children on January 1, when the seventh Kwanzaa principle, Imani, is celebrated.
Zawadi given to children for Kwanzaa are usually books and heritage symbols. Handmade gifts are recommended to avoid the commercialization of the holiday. Appropriate gifts for the Kwanzaa celebration are also available at several stores in the community including A Different Booklist, Nile Valley Bookstore, Timbuktu Bookstore and Knowledge Bookstore.
The celebration of Kwanzaa is a time for us to realize that we should not let anything divide us as a people; we can achieve much when we are united. The first Kwanzaa principle is Umoja (unity) which is celebrated on December 26 and recognized by lighting the black candle. The second principle is Kujichagulia (Self-Determination), celebrated on December 27 and recognized by lighting the red candle next to the black candle. The third principle is Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility), celebrated on December 28 and recognized by lighting the green candle next to the black candle.
The fourth principle is Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics) celebrated on December 29 and recognized by lighting the second red candle. The fifth principle is Nia (Purpose) celebrated on December 30 and recognized by lighting the second green candle. The sixth principle is Kuumba (Creativity), celebrated on December 31 and recognized by lighting the third red candle. The seventh principle is Imani (Faith) celebrated on January 1 and recognized by lighting the third green candle.
During a community Kwanzaa celebration all the candles are lit but for those of us who celebrate Kwanzaa in our homes, the candles are lit one day at a time. On January 1 when we celebrate Imani, all the candles are lit. On December 31, a Karamu or feast is part of the celebration for Kuumba. Community celebrations include pouring of libation to honour and remember those who have transitioned to be with our ancestors. The celebration closes with a unity circle and chanting of ‘harambee’ (let us all pull together) seven times.
Children as our future play an important role in the Kwanzaa celebration and an amazingly articulate group of African American children explain Kwanzaa at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oqzh8bDPfec&feature=related and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FWPrJG7Cei4&NR=1.
So come out on December 31 and share your talents with the community whether you are a scientist, mathematician, dancer, poet, drummer or storyteller. We are an African people, we are a talented people, we are a creative people. Yes, indeed, we are all that!
Kwanzaa yenu iwe na heri! Heri za Kwanzaa!