Black ExperienceNational

Kwanzaa Celebrates 50 Years

The African-American weeklong celebration of heritage and culture returns this year for its 50th anniversary.

From Dec. 26 to Jan. 1, millions of Africans throughout the diaspora, particularly the United States, will observe Kwanzaa, or “first fruits” in Swahili.

Created in 1966 by Maulana Karenga, professor and chairman of Black Studies at California State University, Long Beach, who started the holiday as a way to bring African-Americans together as a community, according to

Karenga combined aspects of several different harvest celebrations, such as those of the Ashanti and those of the Zulu, to form the basis of Kwanzaa.

The celebration includes songs and dances, African drums, storytelling, poetry reading and a large traditional meal.

On each of the seven nights, the family gathers and a child lights one of the candles on the Kinara (candleholder) then together they discuss the principles.

The Nguzo Saba (seven principles in Swahili) are values of African culture which contribute to building and reinforcing community among African-Americans.

They are Unity/Umoja, to strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and race; Self-determination/Kujichagulia, to define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves and speak for ourselves; Collective work and responsibility/Ujima, to build and maintain our community together and make our brother’s and sister’s problems our problems and to solve them together; Cooperative economics/Ujamaa, to build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses and to profit from them together; Purpose/Nia, to make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness; Creativity/Kuumba, 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; Faith/Imani, to believe with all our heart in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders, and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.

Kwanzaa Events 2016

Annual Kwanzaa Celebration – Day 1 – Kujichagulia Live with Culture Queen

Join Culture Queen (Jessica Smith) as she brings to life the Kwanzaa principle Kujichagulia, which means “self-determination,” through live music, interactive movement and storytelling.

Tuesday, Dec. 27, 11 a.m.-1 p.m.

Fort Stanton Recreation Center

1810 Erie Street SE


National Black United Front Kwanzaa 101: An Interactive Workshop Series on Understanding Kwanzaa and How to Celebrate It

Thursday Dec. 22: The Symbols and Activities of Kwanzaa

Thursday Dec. 29: Ujamaa Kwanzaa Celebration

Emergence Community Arts Collective

733 Euclid Street NW


Annual Citywide Umoja Kwanzaa Celebration

Honoring the 50th Anniversary of Kwanzaa featuring Farafina Kan Youth Ensemble, KanKouran West African Dance Company and Ujamaa Shule Afrikan Drummers and Dancers.

Monday, Dec. 26, 5:30 p.m.-10 p.m.

Four Walls Education Center

1125 Neal St NE


The Kwanzaa Children’s Party

A free event featuring a host of entertaining and engaging educational activities for children including cultural arts & crafts, African dance and drumming classes. Storytelling, face painting, healthy kids cooking class, Karamu feast, candle lighting ceremony, and performances featuring Ayanna Gregory, Farafina Kan Youth Ensemble, Ka’ba SoulSinger, and Iya and the Kuumba Kids will also be on the agenda. Every child in attendance will receive a Kwanzaa gift bag full of goodies and a t-shirt.

Friday, Dec. 30, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.

St. Martin’s Church

1908 North Capitol Street NW

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Sarafina Wright –Washington Informer Staff Writer

Sarafina Wright is a staff writer at the Washington Informer where she covers business, community events, education, health and politics. She also serves as the editor-in-chief of the WI Bridge, the Informer’s millennial publication. A native of Charlotte, North Carolina, she attended Howard University, receiving a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism. A proud southern girl, her lineage can be traced to the Gullah people inhabiting the low-country of South Carolina. The history of the Gullah people and the Geechee Dialect can be found on the top floor of the National Museum of African American History and Culture. In her spare time she enjoys watching either college football or the Food Channel and experimenting with make-up. When she’s not writing professionally she can be found blogging at E-mail: Social Media Handles: Twitter: @dreamersexpress, Instagram: @Sarafinasaid, Snapchat: @Sarafinasaid

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