KWANZAA - Celebrating Family, Community, and Culture
By David Volz / December 1, 2015

Kwanzaa is a celebration of the harvest and African-American culture. The holiday grew out of the social struggles that were taking place in the United States during the 1960s and focuses on the seven principles of African Heritage known as Nguzo Saba.

The holiday will be celebrated on December 26 at the African American Research Library and Cultural Center at 2650 NW 6th Street in Fort Lauderdale from 10am to 6pm and Bass Park at 2750 NW 19th Street in Fort Lauderdale on December 31. Kwanzaa officially begins on December 26 and runs through January 1.

Kwanzaa is an important holiday for Nzingah Oniwosan, coordinator of the Kwanzaa event at the African-American Research Library and Cultural Center in Fort Lauderdale. "It is time for me to honor what my ancestors have been through and done and accomplished. It is a time for me to think about how I can have a positive effect on the world," she said. "Kwanzaa is also an important opportunity for people not of African descent to learn about the history of Africans outside of slavery. I want us to move beyond looking at ourselves as former slaves."

Oniwosan has found that many people don't know much about Kwanzaa. She conducts workshops on the holiday and its significance. The celebration at the library will include traditional Kwanzaa activities including the making of gifts such as jewelry and other handmade gifts. Also participants will participate in workshops on health and wellness, entrepreneurship and the making of computer websites. The idea is to promote self-sufficiency. There will be performances that explore the seven principles of Kwanzaa.

"It is a home event and I have participated in many home events," said Oniwosan. "We light candles and play a game that ties to Kwanzaa and ask questions about it. We have conversations and we may have a dance. It is a time to connect with family and friends. We may go to the beach to bring in the new year. We also discuss goals for the coming year."

Maulana Karenga is considered the founder of Kwanzaa in 1965 as an African-American holiday. He is a professor and chair of African Studies at California State University Long Beach. The name comes from the Swahili phrase matunda ya kwanza, which means "first fruits of the harvest." The seven principles consist of Kawaida, a Swahili word for tradition and each of the seven days of Kwanzaa is dedicated to a principle. These include Umoja or Unity. This means people should strive for unity in the family and community. Kujichagulia means self-determination. People are to define themselves, create themselves and speak for themselves. Ujima means collective and work responsibility. People are to build and maintain the community together and work together to solve problems. Ujamaa means cooperative economics. People are to build their own businesses and profit from them together. Nia means purpose. People are to work collectively to build their communities. Kuumba means creativity. People are to work to make the community more beautiful than it was in the past. Imani means faith. People are to believe with all their hearts in their parents, teachers and leaders, according to the Kwanzaa website.

Some of the Kwanzaa symbols include a decorative mat, which represents tradition and a foundation. Crops represent African harvest celebrations and collective labor. There is a candleholder with seven candles representing the seven principles of Kwanzaa. The unity cup symbolizes the practice of unity, which makes everything else possible. The gifts represent the labor and love of parents and the commitments made by the children, according to the Kwanzaa website.

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