Accessibility links

Breaking News

African-Americans Celebrate Kwanzaa - 2003-12-23

The African-American festival of Kwanzaa begins on December 26, and is being celebrated around New York City with a host of feasts, storytelling and traditional African dances.

The seven-day holiday means "first fruits" in the East African language of Swahili, and celebrates African harvest customs.

Maulana Karenga, an educator, founded Kwanzaa in 1966 as a way of teaching people about the cultural heritage of African-Americans.

There are seven principles of Kwanzaa, drawn from ancient African traditions. There is one principle for each day of the festival, unity, self-determination, collective work, responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, and faith.

Tulani Kinard is a vocalist who will be performing this Kwanzaa prayer ritual at New York's Museum of Natural History on the first day of the festival. She says Kwanzaa is a time when families gather together to eat, and share stories and songs about each of the principles.

"There is a gathering of families to light candles on a kinara, and each candle represents each day. There is also a greeting, named Habaragani, which is in Swahili, and the answer is the principle for that day," he said.

Sduduza is a South African Zulu dancer and choreographer who came to the United States several years ago to promote African culture. He says the celebration of Kwanzaa promotes cultural understanding and exchange.

"It's part of people's history for one thing, it keeps the ritual alive. And for me, ritual is everything," he said.

Throughout the week, Sduduza will perform traditional South African songs, such as this one, which is a recital of self-praise of Zakadulu, an ancient king of the Zulu tribe.

During Kwanzaa family get-togethers, a unity cup is passed from person to person with each one saying something positive about the African-American community.