With so many remote Kwanzaa celebrations this year figuring out which celebration to attend can be a daunting task. But Ark Republic will help you cut down the long list of ways to spend holiday.
For African Americans, or people of African descent who have been living in the United States since enslavement, the celebration of Kwanzaa starts on December 26 and ends New Year’s Day.
A custom created out of Black nationalist movements of the 1960s, and more specifically created by members of the US Organization, led by Maulana Karenga, the 7-day celebration uses principles of empowerment to bolster race and cultural pride. For each day, a principle serves as a daily theme for people of African descent to practice and reflect upon. Instead of English, in Kwanzaa, the principles (umoja, kujichagulia, ujima, ujaama, nia, kuumba, imani), called the Nguzo Saba, are in Ki-Swahili.
Celebrants of Kwanzaa are asked to gather daily while dressed in traditional African clothing to light a candle held in holder similar to the Jewish menorah. The candles are in the colors used in the Black liberation flag: red, black and green. At the daily candle lighting, performances such as dancing, singing and poetry readings occur.
While some Kwanzaa participants only observe the holiday, often people choose to perform Christmas and the Black liberation holiday in a nod to the multiple values and beliefs among different family members.
For many years, Melaneyes Media Filmmakers Born Logic Allah and Aundar Ma’at have held Kwanzaa market festivals and Kwanzaa celebrations in the San Antonio, Texas area. Now that Covid has hit they have taken their festivities online.
Since April, they have hosted a number of remote Black historical presentations and film screenings⸺the latest one being Walk on the River: A Black History of the Alamo City. To that end, hosting a Kwanzaa event is right up their alley.
“Not being able to come together as we would like we saw the opportunity to actually celebrate Kwanzaa and actually reach a wider community,” says Ma’at.
The Kwanzaa Online Celebration will consist of the lighting of candles and the discussion of the Nguzo Saba principles. “We felt like it would be a great opportunity…if they have never celebrated in person…this could be their introduction,” says Logic.
This year’s Kwanzaa Online Celebration is free and will be taking place on Zoom.
As well, if you’re looking for a more in depth explanation of the celebration, Logic and Ma’at offer a course for those who would like to learn more about Kwanzaa.
“We should be the ones telling our story and ultimately when you do that it should be in service to the people,” says Logic.
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The Black Mall is live streaming their Kwanzaa celebration this year. Cassiopeia Uhuru Co-Founder and Co-Owner of the online Black owned business directory is optimistic about reaching people across the globe this time.
Since its inception in 2011, the Black Mall has hosted Kwanzaa events in Chicago in collaboration with other organizations and this year will be no different. The Kwanzaa Live 2020 celebration will be hosted by the United Black American Progress Association, Real Men Charities and Y2Kwanzaa.Org just to name a few.
“Chicago is known for maintaining African history, culture and practicing it…It’s not just throwing on a dashiki and lighting a candle just because it’s become a little more trendy. It’s really interwoven into the fabric of our lifestyle,” says Uhuru.
The Kwanzaa principles themselves have kept Uhuru grounded during this pandemic. Long-time Director of the African American Resource Center at Chicago State University, the late Baba Kwesi encouraged her to create a Kwanzaa calendar for the year by recycling the seven principles. “All seven of those principles…Those are the values of our life,” says Uhuru.
Kwanzaa Live 2020 is free to the public but contributions can be made by purchasing a ticket through eventbrite.
“We can’t let it die…We can’t let the fact that we can’t meet in person stop us from celebrating something that is such an inspiration to our lives…Kwanzaa is like a big family reunion,” says Uhuru.
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In the past, the annual San Francisco Kwanzaa celebration has always included food, music and of course Kwanzaa ceremonies. Now, in this Covid-19 world Director of the Village Project Adrian Williams is working hard to ensure there are no major variances in this year’s celebration.
“It’s a challenge but I am one to take on challenges…It makes you stronger,” says Williams.
The lighting of the first candle (Umoja) will take place at the Jazz Heritage Center and the lighting of the last candle (Imani) will take place at St. Cyprian’s Episcopal church. This year’s festivities will include dance performers and spoken word.
As an added bonus there will be blues concerts after each Kwanzaa ceremony. Artists such as Tia Carroll, Fillmore Slim, Soul Mechanix, and the Funkstar band will be performing.
“I always felt that we have to take care of each other thereby trying to live by the principles of Kwanzaa,” says Williams as she recounts a sermon she heard in church one day concerning being a doer of the word and not just a hearer of the word. “That guides me,” says Williams.
Indeed, determined to take care of her community Williams will be providing curbside no contact meal pickups for this year’s Kwanzaa celebration.
As well, there will be a Facebook Kwanzaa watch party contest. The watch parties with the most viewers will win a gift card up to $100 in value.
You can catch San Francisco’s 15th annual Kwanzaa celebration this year live on Facebook, Instagram and Youtube.
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Finally, It’s A Kwanzaa Celebration!
In an attempt to stay ahead of the curve both the Substantial Art and Music Center and their partner Creative Suitland Arts Center decided to make arrangements to hold the Kwanzaa celebration online in August. “We knew as the surge continued that the odds of us having in person events was probably slim to none,” says Rachelle Etienne-Robinson, Co-Founder and Co-Ceo Of Substantial Art and Music.
Returning for this year’s virtual event are hosts Co-Founder and Co-CEO of Substantial Art and Music, Stan “Substantial” Robinson and Brother Victorious, Educator, Author and Owner of Spizzy Smoothies and Teas.
This year’s celebration will include yoga, storytelling and music. As well, there will be a restorative justice presentation and West African Drum and Dance. What’s more, to compensate for there being no marketplace for vendors to sell their products this year, the event features a virtual marketplace for vendors to promote their businesses.
“We were determined to find a way to shift our programming,” says Malachi Robinson, Director of Creative Suitland Arts Center.
This year’s festivities will be taking place on Youtube.
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Before Covid-19 stepped onto the scene both Rachelle Etienne-Robinson and Stan “Substantial” Robinson thought a Kwanzaa celebration would be a great opportunity to introduce the Creative Suitland Arts Center as well as the holiday to their community. “Kwanzaa is still fairly new in comparison to a lot of other holidays,” says Robinson.
But these two Co-Founders and Co-CEOs had no idea what was in store for them. “Almost a month to the date of our grand opening we had to close back down,” says Brittney Barbour, Program Director of Creative Suitland.
But in the words of Robinson’s Uncle George “Ain’t nothing but something to do.” “Being forced to pivot and adapt to certain situations…That’s been my whole life,” says Robinson.
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