Students, faculty and community members gathered for the ninth annual Kwanzaa Celebration hosted by Black Student Union, Office of Federal TRIO, African American Studies Department and the Office of Multicultural Student Engagement on Dec. 5.
“A part of the process of doing a Kwanzaa celebration is you’re always teaching people what it’s about,” said Kefentse Chike, an adjunct professor from the African American Studies Department. “So, by the end of the celebration, ideally, you should know how to celebrate Kwanzaa and be able to share that with somebody.”
BSU president Jasmyne Brantley opened the program by leading the audience in singing the Black National Anthem and reading the poem “Poetry Kwanzaa” by Megan Stoddard.
“Although it is a celebration, it was very insightful for a lot of people and I feel like a lot of people gain information that they’re not going to forget about,” Brantley said. “That is always the goal of BSU. We want everyone to enjoy themselves and to be relaxed in every setting, but to leave here with a little more than what you came with.”
Chike proceeded with Libation, a drink poured out as an offering to “memorialize our ancestors,” and encouraged the audience to participate. He said libation is done to memorialize and remember our ancestors to remember their contributions and sacrifices and to generate their energy.
“Kwanzaa is a festive activity, so we usually have some call and response. We’ve come to celebrate together,” Chike said.
After Libation, Ollie Johnson, chair of the African American Studies Department encouraged the audience to go to the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History to attend a lecture by Dr. Maulana Karenga, the founder of Kwanzaa, on Dec. 10.
“Dr. Maulana Karenga [is] the main founder of Kwanzaa, the important African American cultural holiday. He is one of the most important black intellectual scholars, activists, on the scene today,” Johnson said. “He’s dedicated his whole life to the liberation of black people, and I think we should all turn out to hear what he has to say.”
The presentation of the seven principles of Kwanzaa was done by BSU members. As they lit the Mishumaa Saba, or Seven Candles, in the Kinara, or candleholder, they defined what each one represented.
“Each day represents one of the seven principles of Kwanzaa and was intentionally done to not conflict with Christmas and be during a time when children are out of school and people off work,” Chike said.
Chike and Brantley said it is important for people to learn about, if not celebrate, Kwanzaa.
“The fact that it’s still being celebrated keeps me hopeful that it hasn’t gone away,” Chike said. “It’s a time of reflection and invigoration to remind myself [of] who I am and what I’m about.”
Kwanzaa begins on Dec. 26 and ends on Jan. 1. For more information about the history of Kwanzaa, students can attend the 50th Anniversary of Kwanzaa Lecture on Dec. 10 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. in the General Motors Theatre at the Charles H. Wright Museum.
The Museum is also hosting a public celebration for each day of Kwanzaa, from Dec. 26 through Jan. 1.