Kwanzaa event highlights spirituality and celebrates African-American culture

Community members dressed in colorful dashikis filled the stage in the University Student Union Ballroom Tuesday to get an early start celebrating Kwanzaa with songs of spiritual tidings and appreciation of African culture.

The event began at noon and featured a sermon from the creator the holiday, Maulana Karenga, professor and chair for the department of Africana Studies at Cal State Long Beach.

Kwanzaa is an African American and pan-African holiday celebrated from Dec. 26 to Jan. 1, and was created by Karenga in 1966. The intention is to reconnect African-Americans with their roots through cultural recovery and reconstruction.

“The purpose of Kwanzaa was to reaffirm rootedness in African culture,” Karenga said. “It was created to reinforce the bonds between African People and meditate on being African.”

Hunter Lee | Daily 49er
Creator of Kwanzaa and professor at Long Beach, Maulana Karenga, held an early celebration for the holiday in the USU Ballrooms 12/5.

Professors of the department discussed the meaning and cultural value of why the holiday is recognized. Faculty presented the audience with the history and significance of Kwanzaa through a video, slideshows, speeches, cultural expressions and a final ceremony.

Chimbuko Tembo, Africana Studies administrative support coordinator, said she has a close connection with the holiday.

“I celebrate Kwanzaa every year, I’ve celebrated it for 40 years now,” said Tembo. “We gather with our friends and relatives. We reestablish our connection and relationship with them to celebrate what it means to be African American.”

The event consisted of speakers, music, poetry and a variety of African foods known as Karamu.

“It’s all about reinforcing the fact that we are African people,” Tembo said. “Yes, we live in America but we understand that we are African people and we are enforcing that. That’s the beautiful thing about Kwanzaa, in all our diversity and all unity we are celebrating the fact that we are African.”

At the start of the celebration, Uche Ugawueze, lecturer in the Africana Studies department, gave a Tambika also known as a libation, which is a liquid is poured out as a tribute to their ancestors. Ugawueze held a Kikombe Cha Umoja, also known as the Unity Cup, and began to pour libation, a traditional drink used as an offering which represents remembering and commemorating the ancestors who came before them.

Throughout the introduction, there were two acts of cultural expression which represented the “celebration of the good.” This part of the celebration celebrates the things we have in life such as family, culture and community. Students Cheyenne Lowden and Raven Adams sang “Nothing Can Come Between Us” and “Young, Gifted and Black,” respectively.

University President Jane Close Conoley and the Dean of College of Liberal Arts David Wallace thanked those who helped host the celebration and discussed why Kwanzaa is significant to the campus.

The weeklong holiday gathers friends, families and communities together and is organized around The Seven Principles also known as The Nguzo Saba. Each principle is represented by each candle on the kinara, or candle holder. The candles represent the colors of Kwanzaa — black, red and green — each carrying different meanings. The black candle stands for the people, red is for their struggle and green is for the hope that comes from their endeavors.

At the end of the introduction, a candle-lighting ceremony dubbed “Lifting Up the Light that Lasts Ceremony” took place where the seven Mishumaa Saba candles were individually lit up by seven students. As they came up and announced the principles they were lighting up, the audience repeated each principle in both Swahili and English.

“Dr. Kerenga enforced the Nguzo Saba more so for the black community because it deals with cooperative work ethic,” said president of Africana Studies Student Association, Malaysia Cooper. “From my eyes, it’s your guide on those who aren’t very religious or have guidance, it’s your basic principles you should live by.”

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