Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Rhythm of Kwanzaa Begins; 7 Pivotal Principles Mark 7 Days of African-American History, Heritage

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Rhythm of Kwanzaa Begins; 7 Pivotal Principles Mark 7 Days of African-American History, Heritage

Article excerpt

Byline: TIA MITCHELL, The Times-Union

The drummers' beat quickened into a pulsating rhythm of a song with no words and no title.

Three school-age boys sitting in the second row of the chapel-turned-auditorium nodded their heads. The rest of the crowd began clapping to the beat, moving and shaking to the music.

A woman standing at the podium stopped dancing in place long enough to greet the crowd. "Good evening and welcome to the opening ceremonies of Kwanzaa 2003."

That was how the annual celebration began at Edward Waters College Friday night, kicking off a seven-day holiday that will be honored throughout the First Coast on stages and inside homes. About 100 people attended the North Florida Kwanzaa Celebration.

Kwanzaa, which is derived from the Swahili word for "first fruits," is an international, non-religious holiday that is celebrated from Dec. 26 to Jan. 1. Created in 1966 by Maulana Karenga of California, it encourages people to celebrate and learn about African-American history and culture.

Each day of Kwanzaa is named after one of the seven principles, which are collectively called the Nguzo Saba. The first day is Umoja, or unity.

"It's seven principles, it's universal," explained Ok Sun Burks, who for the ninth year has organized the Kwanzaa kickoff at EWC.

Burks said she is also noticing that more people are learning about Kwanzaa and its true meaning. Though Friday night's crowd was mostly black people, a few of other races also attended.

"I think a lot of people all over are celebrating the idea that there are more holidays to celebrate in December other than Christmas," she said.

The event included a Capoeira Angola martial arts demonstration, poetry and MaVynee Betsch, known as the "beach lady" of American Beach, who was the keynote speaker.

Eleven-year-old Paris El-Amin was one of several people plucked out of the audience to participate in the program. She talked about what she was thankful for: her grandmother who traveled from Memphis for Christmas and her 6-year-old brother, who recently got over an illness.

Paris said it was her first time celebrating Kwanzaa, but she wanted it to become a tradition. …

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