Dr. Maulana Karenga, the creator of Kwanzaa returns to Buffalo on December 29; Dr. Leonard Jefferies, acclaimed Afrikan scholar, to speak December 27.  A variety of outstanding local talent and critical thinkers will highlight the entire week along with a nightly marketplace to encourage the support of Black businesses!

Buffalo and Western New York is set to celebrate another Kwanzaa season!

This year unlike in years past when each night was held in a different location, the first five nights December 26 – 30, will take place at the Buffalo Academy of Visual and Performing Arts located at 450 Masten Avenue, corner of E. Ferry St. All programs will be held from 7-9 p.m. unless otherwise noted.

This year’s schedule kicks off the day after Christmas, December 26, and will feature a Children’s Kwanzaa complete with activities, storytelling a Marcus Garvey Math & Science Expo and a performance by the Youth Conscious R&B Group as part of the early activities. On Saturday night the much-anticipated opening ceremony will feature a tribute to the ancestors and elders and performance by the Daughters of Creative Sound & Tradition Keepers Storytellers and Project Access-To-A-Free-Ka.

Dr. Leonard Jefferies, critically acclaimed Afriakan scholar, professor and activist, will speakSunday Afternoon. Dr. Maulana Karenga, the founder of Kwanzaa, will bring a special message on Tuesday, December 29.

The remainder of the week will see a panel discussion on Black business, a play,  dance performances by the African American Cultural Center and the Issiatou Afrikan Dance Ensemble of Miss Barbara’s School of Dance, aSpoken Word Cipher,  a Neo Soul Concert featuring Will Holton and Drea d’Nur & Friends, a Karamu Feast and open Mic, a presentation by Queen Mother Eva M. Doyleand entertainment bythe Fabulous Old School B-Boys.    (See the complete Kwanzaa schedule page 7.)                     

Kwanzaa is notaffiliated with any major religion. One of the newer American holidays, Kwanzaa originated in the turbulent 1960s to instill racial pride and unity in the Black community. Now, fully recognized in mainstream America and elsewhere, Kwanzaa is widely celebrated. Established in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga, Kwanzaa aims to reconnect Black Americans to their African roots and recognize their struggles as a people by building community. It is observed from Dec. 26 to Jan. 1 annually. Derived from the Swahili term, “matunda ya kwanza,” which means “first-fruits,” Kwanzaa is based on African harvest celebrations such as the seven-day Umkhost of Zululand.

     According to the official Kwanzaa Web site, “Kwanzaa was created out of the philosophy of Kawaida, which is a cultural nationalist philosophy that argues that the key challenge in Black people’s [lives] is the challenge of culture, and that what Africans must do is to discover and bring forth the best of their culture, both ancient and current, and use it as a foundation to bring into being models of human excellence and possibilities to enrich and expand our lives.”

Just as many African harvest celebrations run for seven days, Kwanzaa has seven principles known as the Nguzo Saba. They are: Umoja (Unity); Kujichagulia (Self-Determination); Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility); Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics); Nia (Purpose); Kuumba (Creativity); and Imani (Faith).

During Kwanzaa celebrations, a mkeka (straw mat) rests on a table covered by kente cloth, or another African fabric. On top of the mkeka sits a kinara (candleholder) in which the mishumaa saba (seven candles) go. The colors of Kwanzaa are black for the people, red for their struggle, and green for the future and hope that comes from their struggle, according to the official Kwanzaa Web site.

Mazao (crops) and the kikombe cha umoja (the unity cup) also sit on the mkeka. The unity cup is used to pour tambiko (libation) in remembrance of ancestors. Lastly, African art objects and books about the life and culture of African people sit on the mat to symbolize commitment to heritage and learning.

As the Kwanzaa Web site explains, “The principles of Kwanzaa and the message of Kwanzaa has a universal message for all people of good will. It is rooted in African culture, and we speak as Africans must speak, not just to ourselves, but to the world.”  Happy Kwanzaa!

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