Pasadena Marks Start of Kwanzaa with Celebration Led by Kwanzaa Founder's Daughter

Published : Friday, December 28, 2018 | 6:14 AM

The City of Pasadena on Thursday marked the beginning of Kwanzaa, a festival patterned after traditional “first fruits” festivals of southern Africa, during an event at the Pasadena Public Library’s La Pintoresca Branch.

Kwanzaa is a weeklong festival culminating on New Year’s Day. It was established in the United States in the 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga,  an African-American professor of Africana studies, activist and author, to celebrate family and community and to remind African Americans of their heritage.

Thursday’s event was Pasadena’s 30th annual Kwanzaa celebration. It featured Dr. Karenga’s daughter, Thanayi Karenga, and saw Mayor Terry Tornek, City Councilmember Tyron Hampton, 2019 Rose Queen Louise Deser Siskel with the Royal Court and scores of community members come to participate.

“This is a tradition that’s been going on at this location for about 30 years and it’s really wonderful. It’s yet another example of how Pasadena knows how to celebrate important events. Kwanzaa is one of the newer traditions, but an important one in our city,” Mayor Tornek said.

“I think what binds cities together is when people have pride in their past and look toward the future as a community.”

As many as one hundred people packed the library Thursday, including school children, who sat up front.

Councilmember Hampton said Kwanzaa is a “fantastic” cultural celebration of unity and community and the African diaspora.

“We constantly have to communicate with people, bring people in, let people know about all of the resources. So today’s a great day to get people into our libraries,” Hampton said. “Also just really to bring the community together and hear what the concerns are, I mean that’s ultimately the goal. The goal is to constantly always build community.”

This year’s Kwanzaa theme is “Reimagining and Remaking the World: A Kwanzaa Commitment to an Inclusive Good.”

In his annual founder’s message, Dr. Karenga, chair of Africana Studies at Cal State Long Beach, said the focus of the celebration is what is called “Nguzo Saba,” or the Seven Principles, which refer to unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith.

“This principle and related practice are rooted in its ancient origins in the African harvest and the communitarian worldview and way of life that undergirded and informed it,” Karenga said. “The ancient roots of Kwanzaa in the shared African harvest and the celebration of it immediately bring to mind the sacred teachings given to us by our honored ancestors in the Odu Ifa which tells and teaches us we are to constantly strive and struggle to bring good into the world, share it and not let any good be lost.”

Refreshments were provided by the Pasadena Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, which has been supporting the Kwanzaa celebration for 30 years.

Rose Queen Louise Siskel said the event reminds her and other youth to be mindful of the institutions older generations have built in society, in order to prepare for a better and more secure future for succeeding generations.

“I feel like Kwanzaa is a holiday which allows elders in this community to really teach the new generation about the traditions and the values of that community. And I think that’s incredibly important,” Siskel said. “So I want to thank you for having us here today and for teaching us some of these values which we really are able to come out with.”

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