Kwanzaa celebrations light up community and culture

Between the Christmas lights and echoes of “Auld Lang Syne,” there’s a cultural celebration.

Dancers at the Coyaba Theater in Washington, DC, rehearse for a performance commemorating Kwanzaa.

Kwanzaa is a seven-day celebration created during the civil rights movement in the 1960s that focuses on nurturing and appreciating African American life, their past and present.

Sylvia Soumah is the director of Coyaba Theatre. For 15 years, performers have used dance to animate the seven principles of Kwanzaa.

“It’s about life and how one should really live one’s life,” she said.

There are seven principles of Kwanzaa:

-Umoja, or unity

-Kujichagulia, or self-determination

-Ujima, or collective work and responsibility

-Ujamaa, or Collaborative Economics (Supporting Black Businesses and Entrepreneurs)

– nia, or purpose

-Kuumba, or creativity

-imani, or faith

see more: Why are there seven candles for Kwanzaa?

“This year, our goal is Imani — Faith,” Soumah said. “So, how do we keep what we believe in? How do we keep going despite everything that’s happening around us?”

They are not alone. These principles have been flagged by world leaders and popular culture in the past.

“I have to tell you, my favorite is about self-determination: Kujichagulia,” Vice President Kamala Harris said.

A typical Kwanzaa celebration might include dancing, but it also includes wearing kente, poetry, discussing the principles of the day, and a meal.

It also includes Kinara’s lighting.

“You have a red candle that represents the struggle. The black candle represents people of African descent and the green candle represents the land and the future,” Soumah explained.

Over the years, the celebration intensified, spreading to other countries and the African diaspora.

“Kwanzaa makes you look at the day-to-day, the day-to-day, and shows you the importance of being in the moment,” Soumah said.

It’s a decades-old tradition that has international status in today’s culture.


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