The National Association of Kawaida Organization (Nako – NY), held the 45th Anniversary celebration of Kwanzaa at Boys and Girls High School in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn.
For the event, the entrance of the school was transformed to resemble a marketplace where vendors sold many traditional African culture clothing and other collectibles.
The celebration was led by a performance from the Quest Youth Organizations, Q City Sounds, Charisa Dowe-Rouse the “violin diva,” Zahmu, a vocalist and composer, and the universal African dance and drum ensemble.
During the celebration I greeted a woman with “How are you?” and her response was “Habari Gani.”
The woman explained to me that it was the second day of Kwanzaa, and that one greets another by saying “Habari Gani” and the response should be the principle of the day.
Tuesday night was “Kujichagulia,” and the principle represents self- determination.
The woman, Roslyn Bacon, continued to say that Kwanzaa represents the historical and genetic identity of African-American people in America.
“It is the combination of all our hopes, dreams and aspirations. It is a medium to express our creativity and spirituality. If you are of African ancestry, Kwanzaa has something for you,” said Bacon. “Although, the concepts are universal, the roots and essence of the principles are African.”
Bacon said Kwanzaa offers those of African ancestry to let go and let the African feeling come through. It is the space where you can be African without an apology.
“There’s something about the originality of African people. You can’t fake the funk. Kwanzaa is the time where the funk can’t be faked,” she said.
Bacon said she celebrates Kwanzaa in a tacit way as the holiday is about spiritual reflection and personal improvement.
“It was at a Kwanzaa gathering where I was prompted to take a trip to South Africa. I have memories of how the collective energy of African people can spur you on to achieve you goals,” she said.
Also on hand was Dr. Maulana Karenga, the creator of Kwanzaa who addressed the theme of sharing and sustaining the world during the celebration. He urged residents to keep to the Kwanzaa values as a way to orient, guide and do justice and walk in the way of right by teaching the children how to walk as Africans in the world.
According to Dr. Karenga, sharing is a fundamental principle that first came about with creating, cultivating and gathering and sharing of foods.
“Harvesting taught people how to appreciate the bounties of the earth. The earth is the source of life and sight of the sacred,” he said. “We are wounded even as if the earth is wounded. In order for the world to stay healthy we have to share it. The well-being of the world depends on the right being.”
When Dr. Karenga referred to well-being he spoke of social and environmental justice, encouraging residents to “walk gently, act justly and relate rightfully in and for the world.”
In order for the black community and Kwanzaa to survive shared collective work and responsibility would have to occur. The residents are further urged to continue to support their own and think of ways to help expand the connection of the lives of people, he said.
The seven principles of Kwanzaa include: Umoja which translates to unity, Kujichagulia, self-determination, Ujima, collective work and responsibility, Ujamaa, cooperative economics, Nia, purpose, Kuumba, creativity, and Imani, faith.
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