By Coshandra Dillard
Today is the first day of Kwanzaa, an African American and Pan-African holiday that celebrates family, community and African heritage. This year, the holiday turns 50. With a renewed focus on black identity, social justice, unity and community building, this is an appropriate time to embrace the holiday.
If you don’t have a kinara (a candleholder for seven candles) or understand the meaning behind the holiday, don’t worry. The African American Cultural Events Committee will host a celebration from 6 to 8 p.m. today through Jan. 1 at the Tyler Public Library.
Kwanzaa was founded in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga, a professor and chair of Africana Studies at California State University at Long Beach.
It doesn’t replace Christmas and is not a religious holiday. The seven-day observance is a cultural alternative to a season that is often marked by commercialization. Amidst our thirst for material things, Kwanzaa reminds us to get back to basics: reaffirming our dignity and strengthening family and community, all while acknowledging our African roots, and our people’s struggle to gain freedom.
The holiday gets its name from the Swahili phrase “matunda ya kwanza,” which means, first fruits. Kwanzaa reinforces seven basic values of African culture. These values are called the Nguzo Saba which means “the Seven Principles” in Swahili. They are: umoja (unity); kujichagulia (self-determination); ujima (collective work and responsibility); ujamaa (cooperative economics); nia (purpose); kuumba (creativity); and imani (faith).
Jeff Williams, chairman of the Tyler Together Race Relations Forum, will today speak on the first principle, unity.
IF YOU GO
What: Kwanzaa celebration by the African American Cultural Events Committee
When: 6 to 8 p.m. Dec. 26 through Jan. 1, 2017
Where: Tyler Public Library, 201 S College Ave.