Kwanzaa highlights African-American culture and heritage

First Posted: 12/29/2009

A community-wide Kwanzaa celebration included both young and the young-at-heart for a time of sharing, with the focus on the lost culture of a people.
The fourth annual event was held Tuesday at Mallalieu-Jones United Methodist Church and was sponsored by the African American Historical and Genealogical Society of Surry County.
The celebration was held on one day, but encompassed the essence of the seven days which make up Kwanzaa. The holiday celebration runs from Dec. 26 to Jan. 1.
The seven-day observance reminds families to work to maintain unity in the family, in the nation and the community; to take full responsibility for determining who they are and what they will become; to be a part of building and maintaining and/or supporting economic bases in the community to build and restore their community; and to instill the knowledge and sense of pride concerning African cultures.
Dr. Evelyn Thompson, president of the Society, gave the welcome for the event.
In 1966, Maulana Ron Karenge, a professor of black studies at the California State University, saw a need for Americans of African lineage to hold a regularly scheduled celebration for cultural aspects of the African history. In turn, there is ongoing learning and reminder of the cultures of Africa. This led him to travel and study the celebrations in various African countries in the western, eastern and southern parts, Thompson said.
Kwanzaa is a Swahili word meaning first fruits of the harvest. As part of the celebration, Lucy Taylor introduced the Libation part of the service.
The crops are symbolic of African harvest celebrations and of the rewards of productive and collective labor. The mat is symbolic of our tradition and history and therefore, the foundation on which we build. The candle holder is symbolic of our children and our future which they embody. The Seven Principles are the matrix and minimum set of values which African people are urged to live by in order to rescue and reconstruct their lives in their own image and according to their own need. The Unity Cup is a symbol of the foundational principle and practice of unity which makes all else possible and the gifts are symbolic of the labor and love of parents and the commitments made and kept by the children, said Taylor.
Adults, accompanied by children, read aloud the seven principles of Kwanzaa as they lit candles representing each The principles are: Unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith.
Dancer Kaniah Robinson performed a traditional African dance in which she would bring people from the audience and teach them the dance.
Tradition foods from African culture, including boiled sweet potatoes and coconut cookies were served at the end of the service.
Contact Mondee Tilley at [email protected] or at 719-1930.

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