News / USA

Kwanzaa Now Mainstream Part of African-American Culture

People celebrate Kwanzaa at the Anacostia Community Museum in Southeast Washington
People celebrate Kwanzaa at the Anacostia Community Museum in Southeast Washington

Multimedia

Mana Rabiee

It's a week-long celebration called Kwanzaa, an African-American cultural holiday founded in the United States during the black power movement of the 1960s.  Today, hundreds of thousands of African-Americans across the U.S. observe Kwanzaa during the week leading up to New Year's Day on January 1.  

At the Anacostia Community Museum in Southeast Washington, the adults officiating over this Kwanzaa gathering make certain all the children get up to dance.  Kwanzaa was essentially created in 1966 by a black activist named Maulana Karenga. He designed the holiday to help black Americans recognize their African heritage - and in turn to be proud of their African-American culture.

The holiday is rooted in West African traditions like the winter harvest.  Wanda Aikens is a community activist.   She remembers the first Kwanzaa gatherings that were being organized back in 1966.

"We began to understand that the harvesting that we would experience through Kwanzaa is really the same as people here would celebrate New Year's," said Aikens.  "You think about the seeds you have planted, you think about all the activities, all the visions, the missions, all the inspirations that you want to have. Not just in yourself but in your community. And we began to put all those things together for Kwanzaa."

Kwanzaa celebrations center around the lighting of seven candles - each one representing a key principle of life such as unity, self-determination, creativity and faith. Gift giving is also a Kwanzaa tradition.  Aikens remembers the simple gifts she exchanged more than 40 years ago.

"When I was young we took oranges, because oranges were so precious," recalled Aikens.  "Everybody didn't have oranges. And you would take the old lace and you would put lace around the oranges and stick cloves in them and make these beautiful oranges. And you would give it to someone maybe tied in a napkin."

Sir Jameson celebrated Kwanzaa as a boy in the 1980s.  He's here today with his family to pass down the seven principles of Kwanzaa to his children including his toddler son named Seven.

"I did a little bit of Kwanzaa in the 90s, but I strayed away from Kwanzaa and I want to get back into it now that I've got my own family and I want to teach them the seven principles of Kwanzaa," said Jameson.

Hadiya Sholtz, 10, came from Philadelphia to play drums here with her little sister.  She says her favorite principle of Kwanzaa is Unity.

SHOLTZ: "We don't usually come together a lot in Philadelphia so when I come down here, it's like everyone is coming together for one holiday."
RABIEE: "It feels like a community?"
SHOLTZ: "Yes."
RABIEE: "Like having a big family?"
SHOLTZ: "Yes."

Ivy Hylton has been hosting Kwanzaa celebrations for nearly two decades. Today, she's calling on the celebrants at the Anacostia Museum to offer their New Years' resolutions, based on the Kwanzaa principle of shared community.

"I'm going to make a determined, conscious decision, to spend my dollars at black businesses," said Hylton.
It is estimated that between 500,000 and as many as three million African-Americans observe the holiday, which culminates in a feast on January 1.

You May Like

Turkey's Controversial Reform Bill Giving Investors Jitters

Homeland security reform bill will give police new powers in search, seizure, detention and arrests, while restricting the rights of suspects, their attorneys More

Audio Slideshow In Kenyan Prison, Good Grades Are Path to Freedom

Some inmates who get high marks could see their sentences commuted to non-custodial status More

'Rumble in the Jungle' Turns 40

'The Champ' knocked Foreman out to regain crown he had lost 7 years earlier when US government accused him of draft-dodging and boxing officials revoked his license More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisiai
X
Henry Ridgwell
October 30, 2014 11:39 PM
Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisia

Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Africa Tells its Story Through Fashion

In Africa, Fashion Week is a riot of colors, shapes, patterns and fabrics - against the backdrop of its ongoing struggle between nature and its fast-growing urban edge. How do these ideas translate into needle and thread? VOA’s Anita Powell visited this year’s Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Africa in Johannesburg to find out.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.

All About America

AppleAndroid