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N.O. Kwanzaa Coalition kicks off 2012 celebration

26th December 2012   ·   0 Comments

The New Orleans Kwanzaa Coalition announced last week that it is preparing to launch the 2012 observance of the annual Black holiday that celebrates seven African-centered principles.

Afrocentric scholar Maulana Karenga created Kwanzaa in 1966 as the first specifically African-American holiday. Karenga said his goal was to “give Blacks an alternative to the existing holiday and give Blacks an opportunity to celebrate themselves and their history, rather than simply imitate the practice of the dominant society.”

One of its strongest selling points has been its allure as an alternative to the commercialism and materialism of Christmas.

The name Kwanzaa derives from the Swahili phrase matunda ya kwanza, meaning “first fruits of the harvest.” The choice of Swahili, an East African language, reflects its status as a symbol of Pan Africanism, especially in the 1960s, despite the fact that most East African nations were not involved in the Atlantic slave trade that brought tens of millions of African people to the United States.

Kwanzaa was a celebration that has its roots in the Black Nationalist Movement of the 1960s, and was established as a means to help Blacks reconnect with their African cultural and historical heritage by uniting in meditation and study of African traditions and Nguzu Saba, the “seven principles of African Heritage” which Karenga said “is a communitarian African philosophy.”

As Kwanzaa gained mainstream adherents, Dr. Karenga altered his position so that practicing Christians would not be alienated, then stating in the 1997 Kwanzaa: A Celebration of Family, Community, and Culture, “Kwanzaa was not created to give people an alternative to their own religion or religious holiday.”

Many Christian African Americans who celebrate Kwanzaa do so in addition to observing Christmas.

Kwanzaa celebrates what its founder called the seven principles of Kwanzaa, or Nguzo Saba (originally Nguzu Saba—the seven principles of African Heritage), which Karenga said “is a communitarian African philosophy,” consisting of what Karenga called “the best of African thought and practice in constant exchange with the world.” These seven principles comprise Kawaida, a Swahili term for tradition and reason. Each of the seven days of Kwanzaa is dedicated to one of the following principles, as follows:

Umoja (Unity): To strive for and to maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and race.

Kujichagulia (Self-Determination): To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves, and speak for ourselves stand up.

Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility): To build and maintain our community together and make our brothers’ and sisters’ problems our problems, and to solve them together.

Ujamaa (Cooperative Econo-mics): To build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses and to profit from them together.

Nia (Purpose): To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.

Kuumba (Creativity): To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.

Imani (Faith): To believe with all our hearts in God, our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders, and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.

Kwanzaa symbols include a decorative mat on which other symbols are placed, corn and other crops, a candle holder with seven candles, called a kinara, a communal cup for pouring libations, gifts, a poster of the seven principles, and a black, red, and green flag. The symbols were designed to convey the seven principles.

The 2012 schedule of events follows:

December 26, 2012 – UMOJA (Unity)

• Umoja Committee: City Wide Candle Lighting in Congo Square (Louis Armstrong Park), 901 North Rampart Street, New Orleans, LA 70116, 3 p.m. – 5 p.m.

• Ausar Auset Society of N.O.: The Power of Unity Resurrected (Please wear white) – Honoring: Carol Bebelle, Clark Richardson and Vera Warren Williams, 2514 Washington Ave. (Harmony Oaks Community Center), New Orleans, LA 70115, 2 p.m. – 6 p.m.

December 27, 2012 – KUJICHAGULIA (Self-Determination)

• Westbank Cultural Collective: KujiCHAgulia – The Craige Cultural Center, 1800 Newton St., New Orleans, LA 70142, 6 p.m. – 8 p.m. Contact: Vincent Craige (504) 655-0390

December 28, 2012 – UJIMA (Collective Work and Responsibility)

• Bethlehem Baptist Church, Braithwaite, LA: A community affected by Hurricane Isaac – Sponsored by: Zion Travelers Co-Op Ctr. (contact: Rev. Tyrone Edwards 504-473-2996), 111 Bethlehem Lane, Braithwaite, LA 70040, 6:30 p.m.

December 29, 2012 – UJAMAA (Cooperative Economics)

• NOPL African American Resource Center of New Orleans: Kwanzaa Celebration, 209 Loyola Ave., New Orleans, LA (2nd floor, Main Library). 11 a.m.

• Umoja Committee & Kuumba Institute: Children’s Kwanzaa & City Wide Funga Dance, Ashe Cultural Arts Center —children’s activities & performances, 1712 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd., New Orleans, LA 70115
11:30 a.m. – 3 p.m.

• Kuumbuka Drum and Dance Collective & Community Book Center, Community Book Center,
2523 Bayou Road, New Orleans, LA, 70119, Contact Vera or Jennifer for more information at (504) 948-7323 or (504) 948-2514
6 p.m. – 8 p.m.

December 30, 2012 – NIA (Purpose) Celebrate at home with friends and family!


December 31, 2012 – KUUMBA (Creativity)

• Kuumba Academy: 6 p.m. – 9 p.m.

January 1, 2013 – IMAM (Faith)

• New Orleans Juneteenth Committee: Celebrating the 150th Anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, Commemorative program featured presenter: Keith Weldon Medley, historian and author, We As Freemen, St. James AME Church – 222 N. Roman Street, New Orleans, LA
6:30 p.m.

This article was originally published in the December 24, 2012 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper

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