What is Kwanzaa?

Kwanzaa Kinara
The Kinara, or candle holder, holds seven candles. One black, placed in the center, three red and three green. These are the African liberation colors.

NPS Photo

Why we celebrate Kwanzaa

Kwanzaa was first celebrated in 1966 as an African American holiday which has its roots in African cultural traditions. Created by scholar, educator, activist Dr. Maulana Karenga, to introduce and reinforce the Nguzo Saba, and through these seven principles, reaffirm the Pan African philosophy which honors nature, culture, communitarian values, ancestors, family, and history.

Kwanzaa means 'first fruits' or 'first fruits of the harvest' celebrated throughout Africa since ancient times and today when prayers are lifted up and celebrations of thanksgiving take place for the plentiful reaping of crops, children, and all that is needed to sustain life.

In America, Kwanzaa serves as a regular communal celebration of African and African American culture and the bonds between us and Africans throughout the Diaspora. Kwanzaa is a time to give thanks for survivors of the Middle Passage and continuing progress in the new world. The creativity of African Americans is expressed in poetry, dance, music, storytelling, spoken word, drumming and other creative genres throughout the seven days; especially during the Karamu Feast, held on the sixth day of Kwanzaa, Kuumba, which means Creativity.

Kwanzaa begins on December 26, with the principle of Umoja, which calls for unity; concluding January 1, with the principle of Imani, which encourages African Americans to 'keep the faith' as the New Year begins. The Nguzo Saba, expounds universal ideals which benefit us all, and is today celebrated throughout the African Diaspora. We are challenged with living these seven principles throughout the year.

December 27 Invitation
Explore the Ark of Return program December 27, 2017

United Nations Remember Slavery

Kwanzaa 2017 - Schedule

Tuesday December 26
Umoja | Unity

11:00 am: Opening remarks & Kinara Lighting by Dr. Greg Carr
11:30 am: Headwrap Lecture and Workshop by Cheney McKnight
12:15 pm: The Black Nutcracker performed by Uptown Dance Academy
2:00 pm: African Doll Making Workshop with Vickie Freemont
2:00 pm: Dance and Drum Performance by Ifetayo
3:00 pm: Universal Dance and Drum Ensemble Performance

Wednesday December 27
Kujichagulia | Self-Determination

11:00 am: 18th Century African-American Adornment Workshop with Cheyney McKnight
12:00 pm: Explore the Ark of Return by United Nations Remember Slavery Programme
12:30 pm: Dance and Drum Performance by Fusha Dance Company
1:30 pm: Explore the Ark of Return by United Nations Remember Slavery Programme
2:00 pm: Kotchegna Dance Company Performance
2:00 pm: Poetry Workshop with David Mills

Thursday December 28
Ujima | Collective Work and Responsibility

10:00 am: In Their Steps: African Americans in 18th Century New York by Cheney McKnight
11:00 am: Cumbe presents, I Dance Movement. A performance and drum workshop
12:00 pm: Dance and Drum Performance by Ifetayo
1:00 pm: Beading Workshop with Zola Dube

1:00 pm: Dance and Drum Performance by Siren of the Rainforest
3:00 pm: Hair Story by Fruggie
3:00 pm: Spoken Word Performances by
• Be the Poet
• Verbal Artisan
4:00pm: Musical Performance by Ernest Johnson & Entourage

Last updated: August 7, 2018

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