Kwanzaa: a week for Buffalo to celebrate
blog by Sophie Herrman • December 29, 2011 @ 10:10am
When we hear about Kwanzaa, most of us don’t know what it means. Be honest. We wouldn’t guess that it’s a tradition that dates back to one of the most controversial and oppressive times in our country—the African-American Civil Rights Movement. We’ve probably never heard of the “Seven Principles of African Heritage”. What we do know is that it slides in with “Merry Christmas” and “Happy Hanukkah” this time of year.
Kwanzaa is a word that stems from a Swahili phrase meaning “first fruits of the harvest.” From Dec. 26 to Jan 1., Kwanzaa serves as a week for reflection on both the struggles, achievements and resilience of African-American culture. Created in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga, the holiday remembrance also entails a shedding of negative self-image that plagued the culture and an emphasis on confidence and empowerment.
For one week, each celebrant lights one candle daily to represent a pillar of the cultural practices and values of Africa (like purpose, unity and creativity) as a whole. The connection of Kwanzaa is meant to be human and philosophical, not spiritual or divine. Celebrating Kwanzaa is similar to Christmas and Hanukkah with hearty meals and family gatherings as central parts of the festivities. One of the best parts of all? Getting dressed up in bright colors and traditional head-wear. Since this is a celebration for all African-Americans, it’s a perfect opportunity to show pride in or respect for African heritage.
Buffalo celebrates Kwanzaa with special speakers and parties open to the public to welcome in the new year. Dating back to the late-1970s, local “Kwanzaa committee” gatherings were first recorded in 1982— and we have proof!. The link is a cool primary source that details local individuals and the reasons they cherish the holiday. Heart-warming!
Picture courtesy of BlackWNY.com.