Student groups celebrate Kwanzaa

On Dec. 6, the African American Student Affairs and Ethnic Services, along with the Black Men’s Organization, the African Student Union and Black Students United will host a Kwanzaa celebration on campus.

Kwanzaa, generally celebrated from Dec. 26 to Jan. 1, is the African-American celebration of family and black culture. To accommodate the Northern Kentucky University community it will be celebrated in one day but include all key parts of the holiday.

Michelle Peterson, director for African American Student Affairs and Ethnic Services, said Nana Yaa Asantwa, a storyteller, will be one part of the two-part celebration. She will tell stories about African culture and the celebration of Kwanzaa.

The program will include a celebration for children from local schools in the morning and in the afternoon for the Northern Kentucky University community. The afternoon celebration will be held at 1:00 in Business, Education, Psychology building, room 200 and will include African dance.

Peterson said that Kwanzaa is a fun celebration because it celebrates African American culture and because it is unrelated to the other holidays during that time.

The celebration lasts seven days. It consists of putting a kinara, a seven-branched candle holder, with three red, three green and one black candle, on a straw mat in the center of a table. A new candle, as well as the previous days candle, is lit on each day of the celebration.

The black candle represents the African American people. The red candles are for their struggles now and in the past. The green candles symbolize their hopes for the future.

Each day of the seven-day holiday is dedicated to one of the seven principles that guide most African groups.

Umoja, which means unity, is the first day of Kwanzaa. On this day families join to light the black candle and to talk of unity. The day is about striving to keep unity within the community, family, nation and race.

Kujichagulia, or self-determination, is the principle for the second day of the celebration. During the ceremony a red candle, as well as the black candle, is lit and family members share their thoughts on doing what they believe is right for themselves.

Ujima is the third day of Kwanzaa, which focuses on the principle of collective work and responsibility. The focus of this day is building and maintaining a community and sharing responsibility to help solve each other’s problems.

On the fourth day, ujamaa, the principle of cooperative economics is celebrated. This is the day when families collaborate on ways to maintain and setup their own businesses and to profit from them together.

Day five of the Kwanzaa celebration focuses on nia, the principle of purpose. Families talk about their purpose and goals they set for themselves. They work together to restore their community and its people to their traditional greatness.

Kuumba, or creativity, is the principle dedicated to the sixth day of Kwanzaa. On this day the celebration is about working together to do all that they can to make their community beautiful and beneficial to its people. They talk about the creative tasks they are good at, such as playing music or dancing.

The feast called karamu is celebrated on the sixth day. Many families come together for a meal of traditional African foods. After the meal there is African music and dance.

The last day of Kwanzaa, called imani, is dedicated to the principle of faith. This principle is described as the belief in people, leaders, and faith. Families often talk about what they believe, their religious beliefs or their belief in themselves.

Deceased family members are remembered at each of the ceremonies by filling a cup with water or fruit juice. Some of the contents are poured into a bowl, to honor the family members and then the remainder is drunk. Before drinking the juice, members say together seven times the word “harambee” for the seven principles. “Harambee” means “Let’s all pull together.”

This celebration was started in 1966 by Maulana Karenga, chairman of the Black Studies Department at California State University in Long Beach.

He created this holiday because he felt African Americans did not know about their history and wanted them to be proud of their past. He felt that this would help families grow stronger by sharing ideas and tradition.

It is believed this holiday is observed by 5 million Americans and possibly 10 million others around the world.

For more information on the celebration being held on campus, contact the African American Student Affairs and Ethnic Services office at 572-6684.