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Kwanzaa Celebrations Made More Relevant By Recent Tragedies

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Local Celebrants urged to embrace the good

By Chris Levister

In our uncertain world of unstable economies, war-torn countries, and growing concerns of homeland safety, Kwanzaa is a weeklong holiday with harmony and joy at its core. It brings people together – all countries, all religious traditions, all classes, all ages and generations, and all political persuasions – using the common ground of celebrating the African culture in all its historical and current diversity said Dr. Maulana Karenga creator of Kwanzaa.

December 26, 2012 marked the start of the 46th annual Kwanzaa the African American holiday celebrated from December 26 to January 1. It is estimated that some 18 million African Americans celebrate Kwanzaa.

The word Kwanzaa derives from the Swahili phrase "matunda ya kwanza" which means "first fruits." Based on the harvest festivals that have taken place throughout Africa for thousands of years, Kwanzaa focuses on seven core principles, namely unity, self-determination, collective work, responsibility, purpose, creativity and faith.

It's about the ritual, it's about the culture, and it’s about the history said Riverside counselor Candy Mitchell, MA, Psy.D.

Kwanzaa is about families coming together so that they can be with each other and talk about where we've come from where we are now and where we must go as a people, Dr. Mitchell says.

She believes recent tragedies and the growing commercialization of religious holidays make for a more somber and relevant Kwanzaa.

Kwanzaa is not a religious holiday. Rather, it is a celebration created to honor the values and traditions of the African- American culture.

You had the natural devastation of Hurricane Sandy, a “hellish” election cycle and worries over the so called fiscal cliff, all this in the span of 12 months, that is enough to send anyone already dealing with the lingering effects of the recession into a physical and emotional tailspin, she said.

Then on December 13, along came the horrific school massacre in Connecticut bringing with it an ugly public debate over guns. Add to the equation the forgotten victims. Large metropolitan areas account for more than two thirds of deaths by gun violence each year, with inner cities most affected. The majority of the victims are young and black, ranging in age from their early teens to mid- 20s, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“You kind of get the feeling that we’re all going off the rails,” says Mitchell “People in general, not just people of African descent are more stressed, more pessimistic. Everyone is searching for a way to embrace good.”

“We have the capacity to embrace the ways of our ancestors by teaching and embracing the 7 principles set forth by Dr. Karenga 46 years ago.

One of the symbols used during Kwanzaa the celebration is the kinara, or candleholder.

Seven candles (representing the seven principles) are placed in the kinara — three red on the left, three green on the right and a single black candle in the center.

The candle colors represent the colors of the Pan-African flag, also known as the Afro American Flag or the Black Liberation Flag.

These three colors were important symbols in ancient Africa that gained new recognition through the efforts of Marcus Garvey's Black Nationalist movement. Green is for the fertile land of Africa; black is for the color of the people; and red is for the blood that is shed in the struggle for freedom The number of candles is representative of the seven principles Kwanzaa observes: unity (Umoja), self-determination (Kujichagulia), collective work and responsibility (Ujima), cooperative economics (Ujamaa), purpose (Nia), creativity (Kuumba) and faith (Imani).

The Kwanzaa seven principles have a universal message for all people – good will, said former Assemblywoman Wilmer Carter who co-chairs the Inland Area Kwanzaa Group with her husband, Ratibu Shadidi.

"Kwanzaa is an opportunity to remember what our ancestors brought and gave — and for us to look forward to the future. It's also a time for fun, food and fellowship,” said Shadidi.

He said the mission of the Inland Area Kwanzaa Group is to inform people about the Holiday. Anyone who has a serious interest in promoting the study and practice of African and African-American culture can join the group.

• Benefit of membership includes becoming self-conscious agents of their own liberation, which contributes collectively to strengthening the family, community, nation, and culture.

• Members will be able to attend the regularly scheduled cultural workshops and many other scheduled business, political and educational workshops.

Members will ultimately be able to teach the practice of KWANZAA’s Seven Principles; volunteer in the group’s speakers’ bureau; and share in the rescue and reconstruction of African and African-American history and culture which is necessary to bring about liberation and a higher level of human life.

This year the group held its annual Kwanzaa Karamu on Saturday, December 29 at the Rialto Senior Center. The event featured a variety of music, dance and poetry that celebrates the tradition of the African American and Pan African holiday.

For more information contact the group at P.O. Box 332, Rialto, CA. 92377, call (909) 820- 4406 or email at E-mail: ratibu@ef-cbs.com; E-mail: amina@ef-cbs.com

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0 # xm 2013-01-05 14:47
"Kwanzaa" is NOT a real holiday. It was invented by a radical in the 1950s. The term "Kwanzaa" has does have African meaning, but the American holiday has no African roots.

Asians and Latinos do not need random revolutionaries to invent "alternatives" to "white" holidays, because they' already have a connection to the culture and homeland. Instead of celebrating a pseudo holiday, why not find out more about real African traditions?
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0 # Diane2u 2013-01-03 09:03
So how is it that one can get away with distorting the principals of Kwanza and consider oneself a vanguard for the ancestors. How can one discuss Kwanza and omit "Cooperative Economics" as a principal. Unless, one is committed to the history of slavery and dependence as the legacy for so-called African Americans? For surely the author is a wolf in sheep's clothing.
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