First Posted: 12/27/2008
Nearly 18 million African Americans celebrate Kwanzaa every year. Of those celebrating will be area blacks in Mount Airy who attend the Kwanzaa Celebration program sponsored by the African American Historical and Genealogical Society of Surry County at Mallalieu-Jones United Methodist Churchs fellowship hall on 231 N. South St. on Jan. 1 from 2 to 5 p.m.
The free three-hour celebration is open to the public and will include music, historical presentations, guest speakers, fellowships, family gifts and refreshments.
The purpose of the celebration is to help African Americans reconnect with their African cultural and historical heritage and celebrate in unity their ancestral roots.
As African-American people, celebrating Kwanzaa defines where we came from as a people, who we are now and where we are going, said Elaine Joyce Norris, a board member of the AAHGS, who helped planned the Jan. 1 celebration.
Kwanzaa is a seven-day celebration of family, community and culture that is traditionally observed from Dec. 26 to Jan. 1. Its an African-American and Pan-African holiday, with its origins in the first harvest celebrations of Africa. The name Kwanzaa is derived from the phrase matunda ya kwanza, which means first fruits in Swahili.
The holiday was created in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga, an African-American political activist and author. Kwanzaa observes seven principles for each day in its week-long observance, which include Umoja (Unity), Kujichagulia (Self-determination), Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility), Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics), Nia (Purpose), Kuumba (Creativity) and Imani (Faith).
AAHGS board member Norris said that the holiday is being compacted into one day on Jan. 1 to allow more people to participate since its intended to be a community celebration.
This years program will include special guests Esther Houser from Ghana, Africa, who will perform a dance, song and drums; the Rev. Dr. Benjamin Whitlock, a professor of African-American studies, and Amy Quaye from Ghana, who will present music and a display of African artifacts, books and fabrics among others.
Norris said its important to celebrate Kwanzaa because it gives recognition and thanks for the richness of ones heritage in both Africa and America.
We as African-Americans have lost our culture, and we have lost everything we had in celebrating in Africa, she said. I think its very important as African-Americans to keep these (seven) principles year after year, it helps us to be strong as a culture here in this nation. We need something to look forward to that we can connect with that also connects us to our culture in Africa. We need to celebrate ancestors and the things we have accomplished as a people. If we dont do it, its not going to get done. A lot of children are not exposed to African-American history, and they need to know they are a strong and brave people.
Kwanzaa participants may wear casual or African attire. There will also be authentic African dress available for purchase, with proceeds to go to African weavers who hand weave the cloth for the dresses.
For more information about the program, contact Elaine Joyce Norris at 786-2247 or Dr. Evelyn Thompson at 786-4922.
Contact Erin C. Perkins at [email protected] or 719-1952.