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.


Kwanzaa 2016 - Schedule

Kwanzaa is a week-long African-American holiday observed from Dec 26 through Jan 1, which focuses on the traditional African values of family, community responsibility, commerce and self improvement. This year holds particular significance as the 25th anniversary of rediscovery, the 50th anniversary of Kwanzaa, and the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service. The African Burial Ground invites you and your family to visit and take part in the activities.

Tues Dec 27 | Kujichagulia
10:30am: Performance by Cumbe Dance
11am: Opening remarks on Kwanzaa by Cyril Innis, Jr.
12 Noon: Performance by Worm Bass
2pm: African Naming Ceremony by Queen Mother Dr. Delois Blakely

Wednesday Dec 28 | Ujima
Screenings throughout the day of Our Time at Last and A Rugrats Kwanzaa.
12 Noon: Performance by Fusha Dance

Thursday Dec 29 | Ujamaa
12 Noon: Performance by Arthur Toombs
5pm: Performance by Adlib Steel Orchestra with a self-guided tour of 290 Broadway commemorative art
6:30pm: Performance by Marsha Thompson followed by:
Past, Present & Future: The 25th Anniversary of Rediscovery,
a panel discussion featuring:

• Dr. Fatimah Jackson, director of the W. Montague Cobb Research Laboratory at Howard University
• Dr. Sherrill Wilson, Urban Anthropologist
• Sharon Wilkins, deputy borough historian of Manhattan and a member of the Harlem African Burial Ground Task Force
• Moderated by Michael H. Frazier, Historian, African Burial Ground
Concluding with a ribbon cutting and walkthrough of African Burial Ground National Monument Research Library.

Friday December 30 | Nia
10:30am: Performance by Universal African Dance & Drum Ensemble
11:30am: Spoken Word & Poetry by Be The Poet
12:15pm: Spoken Word & Poetry by The Verbal Artisan
1:00pm: Performance by Ayoinmotion
2:00pm: Memory, History, and Art: Tribute to Houston Conwill and The New Ring Shout by Dr. Patricia Leonard
3:00pm: Drumming by Songhai Djeli

Download a copy of our event flyer here (PDF - 350KB)

Last updated: December 16, 2016

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