Wayne State’s Black Student Union held its 14th annual Kwanzaa celebration from Dec. 5 through Saturday with in-person and virtual events.
The weeklong celebration began with an Opening Ceremony on Dec. 5 and ended with an Induction Ceremony via Zoom on Saturday, according to BSU’s Kwanzaa Celebration flyer. Additional events included a Winter Clothing Drive at BSU’s Student Center office and a Black Business Empowerment Zoom event on Wednesday.
BSU President Michael Joseph said the organization has embodied the spirit of Kwanzaa on campus since the 1960s.
“We (BSU) are here to make a safe space for Black students, most importantly,” Joseph said. “...(Kwanzaa) is something that should be celebrated even more and highlighted by the university.”
Kwanzaa is celebrated annually from Dec. 26 to Jan. 1. The holiday was created by Dr. Maulena Karenga in 1966, according to History.com.
Joseph said BSU organized this celebration to reflect the Seven Principles of Kwanzaa.
“This process this year — instead of just having one event, we wanted to have a week of seven events,” Joseph said. “We had Umoja, Kujichagulia, Ujima...on Saturday, when we have our actual celebration, we go over all of these events as well.”
Each day of Kwanzaa represents one of the holiday’s Seven Principles: Umoja (unity), Kujichagulia (self-determination), Ujima (collective work and responsibility), Ujamaa (cooperative economics), Nia (purpose), Kuumba (creativity) and Imani (faith).
Freshman English rhetoric and composition major Faith Howard said in an email to The South End on Friday that they attended BSU’s Black Business Empowerment event and found it very insightful.
“I left with valuable information that I can share with others and a plan of action for improving our collective economic status,” Howard said.
BSU general body member Jeremiah Wheeler said Kwanzaa is important to push back against racism in the U.S.
“Kwanzaa is essential because in order for us to work together, to push together, to fight together, and to get free together, we have to believe that we are together,” Wheeler said. “And that’s where Kwanzaa comes in.”
The holiday has significance for Black Americans, Joseph said.
“Kwanzaa is more so just about the betterment and the uplifting of our African (and) Africana descendent communities,” Joseph said.
Howard said that BSU helped spread awareness of the meaning of Kwanzaa amongst the campus community through its celebration.
“I believe these events are important for all students but for Black students especially to be exposed to because it covers histories and social issues that would otherwise be ignored,” she said.
Wheeler said he wants Black students at WSU to know their own power and the importance of advocating for Black liberation.
“(Our peers) have a responsibility 一 you have to use it, you have to apply it, you have to challenge all things that challenge our humanity to the fullest extent 一 that is your responsibility,” Wheeler said. “Anybody who does not commit to forward progress in the spirit of Black liberation has by default or intentionally committed to the regression of Black people.”
Ashley Harris is a contributing writer for The South End. She can be reached at email@example.com.
Cover photo by Hannah Sexton, graphic designer for The South End. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.