Celebrating Kwanza at UMB

Jacob Aguiar

“Habari Gani,” a Swahili word meaning–what’s the word or what’s the news– is the traditional Kwanzaa greeting. Can’t quite wrap your tongue around that?

Then stick to the simpler “Joyous Kwanzaa”. But what is Kwanzaa anyway? Some sort of Christmas spin-off? Can anybody celebrate or do you have to be black? How do you celebrate it anyway?

Last week the Black Student Center hosted the fourth annual Kwanzaa celebration. The event offered a culturally enriching experience to those in attendance as it outlined the origins, traditions and purpose of Kwanzaa.

Keynote speaker UMB’s own Professor Kamara gave a riveting speech that provided attendants with a great deal of insight into the Kwanzaa celebration.

Kwanzaa is a special celebration incited first in 1966 by Dr Maulana Karenga. As you know it’s not a religious ceremony, but it is spiritual. It represents the spirit of our entire community, because it represents the essence of our culture and who we are. Kwanza is not an African tradition; it is African American distinctly, drawn from our deep roots and cultural heritage.

“Kwanzaa is a harvest festival, not meant to be an alternative to Christmas; in fact many families celebrate both,” said Karenga. Swahili was chosen as the language for the celebration, because of its widespread use. “Swahili as a language is spoken over a very vast area all over central and eastern Africa…reflects the gathering of our people together … representing the whole,” said Karenga.

Kwanzaa is celebrated from Dec 26th to the first of January. Each night a candle is lit from the Kinara, a traditional candleholder adorned with African symbols. Each candle represents one of the seven principles of Kwanzaa. After the professor’s speech seven UMB students one by one exemplified the seven principles.

Daniel Souza- Kuumba demonstrated Creativity, by always doing as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.

Ronald Nere- Ujamma explained Cooperative Economics as working to build and maintain our own stores, shops and other businesses and to profit from them together.

Kaia Finn- Kujichagulia, Self Determination, To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves and speak for ourselves.

Jersiah Desrosiers- Umoja, Unity, to strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation and race.

Kofi Boateng -Ujima, Collective Work and Responsibility, to build and maintain our community together and make our brother’s and sister’s problems our problems and solve them together

Shaka McPherson-Nia showed Purpose, meaning to make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.

Reginald Merome-Imani, showed Faith, to believe with all our heart in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.

There was also an unscheduled performance from UMB student Grace Ejiwale, who recited his own poem entitled “Don’t Try to Define This”.

“I wrote it here at the event I just felt as though the other side had to be heard things aren’t always sweet there’s a sour side too,” said Ejiwale.

People only celebrate for the moment, and these principles should be kept in mind all year; this poem was a call to awareness. We need to stop being modern day slaves and niggers and become the people we used to be, “powerful.”, said Ejiwale.