Kwanzaa lights up community pride | Featured

By NATHALIA TEIXEIRA Staff Writer



IMPERIAL VALLEY —  Originally from Nigeria, Efe Erukanure is still getting familiar with the Kwanzaa holiday as 2023-2024 was the third year he was celebrating the holiday at the Johnson Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church in El Centro.

“I like the fact that it gives African Americans a sense of belonging,” Erukanure said. “It gives them a better idea of ancestry where they might not know the exact country or their exact tribe they are from.”

The holiday began in the U.S. in 1966 by Maulana Karenga, a professor and chairman of Black Studies at California State University, Long Beach, after the Watts Riots in Los Angeles, which were a 6-day-long riot against police brutality against African-Americans.

According to Kwanzaa’s official website, Karenga began the new holiday to help create an environment of community for African- Americans after the riots. In the research for African harvest celebrations, he combined a week-long holiday with those celebrations. Kwanzaa 2023 began on Tuesday, December 26, and lasted through Monday, January 1, 2024.

“Kwanzaa is a time for family and community,” Jamaal Brown, the founder of Black365, said. “It’s a reflection on your actions and activities of the past and a reaffirmation and a commitment to celebrating the principles and manifesting them while demonstrating the principles of Kwanzaa in the future.”

The goal of the holiday is to look inward toward family and community, he said.

Seven principles are connected with the seven days of the week. Principles such as unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith are discussed by the participants.

“What’s most important is not only really celebrating the holiday,” Marlene Thomas, longtime community advocate, said. “It’s to understand and learn the purpose and principles, how they were, how they relate to us and passing it on.”

Additionally, seven fundamental symbols that embody African cultural values and beliefs are also part of Kwanzaa. On December 31, there’s an African feast known as a Karamu. Families that celebrate the festival light candles and have conversations about the seven principles symbolized by the red, green and black candles along with gathering around a table and singing African songs and recitals.

The way the holiday differentiates from other African-American holidays throughout the year is the fact that has no political or religious connection, Brown said.

However, there are many ways people can celebrate the holiday including in a church.

“It could be celebrated individually, in an organization or faith-based group or in a family,” Thomas said.

For Erukanure, lighting up the seventh candle represents one more year of celebrating community and fostering a sense of belonging.

“The most important thing is to celebrate the holiday honoring the principles the holiday brings,” he said. “Regardless of what name you’re calling this holiday in different African tribes and cultures. They all represent the same thing.”


By NATHALIA TEIXEIRA Staff Writer www.ivpressonline.com

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2024-01-04 08:00:00 , www.ivpressonline.com – RSS Results in news of type article

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