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KWANZAA, a learning and growing opportunity for everyone

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As many people are observing December 25 as Christmas, there is a cultural holiday which begins the following day. It is Kwanzaa, a week long celebration which centers around seven principles called the Nguzo Saba. Kwanzaa was first created in 1966 when Dr. Maulana Karenga, an African-American professor, activist and author, saw a need. This was a time to celebrate history, acknowledge the ancestors and to move forward with something new and unique.

The holiday is centered around the number seven. There are seven principles as well as seven symbols. The symbols are:

  • mkeka, the placemat (to represent the foundation of the family)
  • mazao, the crops, (symbolic of work)
  • vibunzi,ears of corn(one to represent each of the children),
  • kinara, the candleholder (the center of the setting; represents ancestry)
  • mishumaa saba, the seven candles (three red, three green, one black representing each principle)
  • kikombe cha umoja, the unity cup (used to pour libation)
  • zawadi, the gifts (usually homemade; encourages achievement)

Each day focuses upon a different principle as the family gathers to light a candle and to discuss the ideals for that night. At the end of the week, gifts are given and the family has a feast called Karamu.
Kwanzaa is a time to reflect and to grow while honoring the ancestors and family values.

Below is a poem, written by this writer, a few years ago.

PRINCIPLES OF KWANZAA, PRINCIPLES FOR LIFE
by Vickie M Oliver-Lawson

First fruits is what the name Kwanzaa means
It’s celebrated everywhere by kings and queens
Based on seven principles that still exist
If you check out this rhyme, you’ll get the gist
Umoja, a Swahili name for unity
Is the goal we strive for across this country
Kujichagulia means self-determination
We define ourselves, a strong creation.
Ujima or collective work and responsibility
Is how we build and maintain our own community
For if my people have a problem, then so do I
So let's work through it together with our heads held high.
Ujamaa meaning cooperative economics is nothing new
We support and run our own stores and other businesses, too.
Nia is purpose, us developing our potential
As we build our community strong to the nth exponential;
Kuumba is the creative force which lies within our call
As we leave our community much better for all;
As a people, let’s move forward by extending our hand
For Imani is the faith to believe that we can;
These seven principles help to make our nation strong
If you live to these ideals, you just cannot go wrong
But you must first determine your own mentality
And believe in yourself as you want you to be
And no matter how far, work hard to reach your goal
For we stand, as a people, heads up, fearless and bold.

There are many Kwanzaa celebrations occurring throughout the country. The Reginald F. Lewis Museum, located at 830 E. Pratt Street in Baltimore, will hold a Kwanzaa celebration from 12PM -4PM Saturday December 28, 2013. Participants are sure to have a great time.

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