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Friday, June 14, 2024

Happy Kwanzaa!

By Ivan Saul Cutler, Carolina Peacemaker / December 29, 2023

With the joyful customary welcome greeting, “Habari Gani,” Kwanzaa participants responded to “what’s in the news” with a thunderous, “Umoja,” or “unity,” the first of seven days linked to the festival’s principles celebrating African heritage with songs, dances, African drums, storytelling, poetry reading and feasting.

The happy and reflective weeklong celebration, Dec. 26 to Jan. 1, opened in the Peeler Recreation Center where Greensboro’s Kwanzaa Collective organizer Dawn Omilade Ṣàngódélé Tafari cheerfully explained the symbols and the significance of the festival. Known as Mama Dawn, she joins, Mama Dandara Boyd, Mama Jamillah Neeairah Nasir and Mama Ankhi Ma’at Tonya Poole.

In its 14th year, the Greensboro Kwanzaa Collective has planned daily events incorporating Kwanzaa’s Seven Principles affirming the bonds between people in the community and their collective responsibility to serve one another: The seven principles include: Dec. 26 — Umoja (Unity to strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation and race.); Dec. 27 — Kujichagulia (Self-Determination); Dec. 28 — Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility); Dec. 29 — Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics); Dec. 30 — Nia (Purpose); Dec. 31 — Kuumba (Creativity); and Jan. 1 —Imani (Faith).

Standing at a table of varied Kwanzaa elements, Mama Dawn asked for a show of hands of the audience to indicate if Umoja was their first time attending a public Kwanzaa. First time Kwanzaa attendee, Nikita Dladla Hood, a South African residing in Greensboro, said she appreciates the sense of heritage that Kwanzaa honors. “Kwanzaa is important to Black Americans, who have lost their culture ever since they were brought here (as enslaved people),” she said. “As a Zulu woman, we celebrate our culture differently than this holiday here, which is important.”

A poignant moment, a solemn libation ceremony ushers in day, with the somber ritual pouring of liquid into a floral arrangement to pay homage to ancestors, whose names are recited by everyone in attendance. Moments later, the first candle in the seven-branch kinara is kindled.

All Kwanzaa activities are free. On each of the seven evenings, the customary libation and candle-lighting ceremony occurs, followed with storytelling, drumming and dancing, along with opportunities for community building and sharing, an African Marketplace, arts and crafts fun for younger community members, delicious food tasting, Mama Dawn said.

Local author, poet and Black history teacher Jasmine Mallory debuted her expressive Book of Kwanzaa, detailing “the history and origins behind the celebration of Kwanzaa, which is an extension of the “first-fruits” celebrations held in continental Africa,” she said. “This Book of Kwanzaa highlights the fundamental principles, values, symbols and core concepts of celebrating the Kwanzaa holiday, which is richly imbued in African Roots. Whether you’re a novice, an expert or simply interested in the topic, this book is an excellent tool and learning guide.”

This year’s Kwanzaa schedule is:

  • Dec. 26 to December 29, 2023: 5 p.m. to 6 p.m.
  • Dec. 30, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., with a Family Fest from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
  • Dec. 31, 2023 and Jan. 1, 2024, 3 p.m. to 4 p.m.


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Since 1967, the Carolina Peacemaker has served as North Carolina’s leading news weekly with a national reputation. Founded by Dr. John Kilimanjaro, the newspaper is published by Carolina Newspaper, Inc.

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