Festival of Principles African-American Families Celebrate Kwanzaa

Article excerpt

In a small, intimate ceremony, the family of Lynette and Kofi Wilson of St. Louis gathered around a table filled with a mkeka (mat), mazao (fruits and vegetables), kikombe cha umoja (communal cup), a kinara and mishumaa saba (candleholder and seven candles), muhindi (an ear of corn) and zawadi (small gifts) as they celebrated Dec. 26 - the first day of Kwanzaa.

The Wilsons are among 13 million African-Americans in the United States who celebrate Kwanzaa by lighting candles, exchanging handmade or educ ational gifts and participating in enrichment programs. Kwanzaa, which means "first fruits of the harvest" in Swahili, is celebrated Dec. 26 through Jan. 1.

Each day of Kwanzaa focuses on one of the seven spiritual and communal principles, or Nguzo Saba. They are umoja or unity; kujichagulia, self-determination; ujima, collective work and responsibility; ujamaa, cooperative economics; nia, purpose; kuumba, creativity; and imani, faith. On each day, a family member lights a candle, then discusses one of the seven principles. On the last day, simple gifts are exchanged. For a decade, Wilson says, her family has faithfully celebrated the seven days of Kwanzaa. On Thursday night, she and eight relatives gathered to celebrate the first Kwanzaa principle - unity. "While all the principles are good principles to be used throughout the year, unity is the most important principle," Wilson said. Kwanzaa is an exciting time for the Wilsons because they get to dress up in African garb and share family stories. It's "spiritual and uplifting," Wilson said. Kwanzaa is a spiritual and festive celebration that has no ties to any religion. Every year, Leslie Scott, a student at Washington University, says her 10 relatives gather at her grandmother's house to talk about the importance of family and staying together. …

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