Kwanzaa Lives in the Hearts of Black Families

Article excerpt

In the midst of the Civil Rights Movement, during the

back-to-your-African-roots, black-revolution era that was the

1960s, Maulana Karenga, an African Studies professor, created a

new African-American observance called Kwanzaa.

Karenga presented it as an expression of collective black

consciousness, a political and cultural statement, an annual

affirmation of values and a reinforcement of the bonds between

African-Americans, namely our history and common struggle for

liberation.

The observance began Friday and lasts seven days. On each day,

a candle is lit representing one of the seven principles: unity,

self-determination, collective work and responsibility,

cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith. Gifts are

exchanged, but they're simple, preferably homemade or purchased

from a black-owned business.

Kwanzaa is not a "black Christmas." It's not a religious

event. Rather, it's an alternative to the commercial aspects of

Christmas.

Since I first learned about Kwanzaa about 10 years ago, I've

played with the idea of adopting it as a family tradition. But

when Christmas comes and my family is gathered, I'm reminded that

we've been celebrating Kwanzaa's principles all along.

My family has never bought into the Madison Avenue version of

Christmas. We've taken the holiday and adapted it to fit our

family's cultural and spiritual needs. …