Like last year’s Kwanzaa celebration, the event on Tuesday, Dec. 27, will be virtual, but families can still have the traditional feast in their own homes while watching the activities on Zoom.
The Kwanzaa festival focuses on seven essential principles, each represented by one day of the seven-day celebration. These principles are unity (umoja), self-determination (kujichagulia), collective work and responsibility (ujima), cooperative economics (ujamaa), purpose (nia), creativity (kuumba), and faith (imani).
“You present the seven principles, review those and you open with the libation and then you have a Kwanzaa ceremony. Kwanzaa is usually opened up by the oldest African American person who is attending,” Esther Watkins, a member of the Pasadena chapter of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, and chair of this year’s Kwanzaa told Pasadena Now.
“We will have storytelling, music and we’ll have participants like young participants as old as seven, like piano soloists. And we will have a ceremony, the Kwanzaa ceremony and the libation and it will open with the singing of a national anthem. And then we also will present Kwanzaa gifts, which will be books to the children. And since it’s virtual, we will take them to the schools, books to the children, and we always do Kwanzaa gifts.”
Maulana Karenga started the tradition of celebrating Kwanzaa as an African-American holiday in 1966 when he was a doctoral student during the aftermath of the Watts riots in Los Angeles. His goal was to give African Americans an alternative to the existing holiday of Christmas and to give them an opportunity to celebrate themselves and their heritage.
The name Kwanzaa derives from the Swahili phrase “matunda ya kwanza,” meaning “first fruits.”
The celebration itself is patterned after several harvest or “first fruit” festivals in Africa around December or January, such as the “Ikore,” celebrated by the Yoruba people in Nigeria and the New Yam festival of another Nigerian tribe, the “Homowo” harvest festival among the Ga people of Ghana, and the “Incwala” celebrated by the people of Swaziland.
It was from the “Umkhosi Wokweshwama” festival, celebrated by the Zulu people of South Africa, that Dr. Karenga drew much of the inspiration for Kwanzaa.
“Kwanzaa also is not just one day,” Watkins said. “Kwanzaa begins on the 26th of December and ends on January 1st, New Year’s Day, which means that families can do their own celebrations each day in their home celebrating a principle. And you’ll see other organizations doing major celebrations on a different day.”
To participate in Tuesday’s Kwanzaa celebration hosted by the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, visit https://pasadena.evanced.info/signup/EventDetails?EventId=6717. The event begins at 11 a.m.