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Kwanzaa Founder Stops in Cary to Celebrate

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CARY — While one holiday comes to an end, another is just beginning for people around the world. Monday was the second day of Kwanzaa, the African celebration of unity, and the man who created it all was in the Triangle to share in the festivities.

Kwanzaa is not a celebration that is quietly observed. Instead, you become a part of it.

The man who created and defined Kwanzaa made a stop in Cary Monday. Dr. Maulana Karenga saw exactly how far his vision has come.

"So what we wanted to do was to return our history and culture and to use our past as a foundation to forge a more beautiful present and a new, rich future," said Karenga.

Karenga says African-Americans carry a heavy burden of history, and Kwanzaa is a way for them not to forget that past. The celebration is based on family, community and culture.

Kwanzaa is a symbolic celebration. The seven candles represent the seven principals of Kwanzaa. The fruits and vegetables symbolize the harvest and rewards of working together.

When family members drink from the unity cup, it reinforces their commitment to each other.

Although Kwanzaa is celebrated by African-Americans, organizers say the message also speaks to other cultures whose people are invited to come and learn.

"Each man, woman and child that participates in Kwanzaa is changed, and their cultural awareness is heightened for the rest of our lives," explained Lester Thomas of Cary.

In the past 30 years, Karenga's vision has created a cultural awareness that has been embraced by many people in North Carolina and around the world.

Karenga is a professor and chairman of the Black Studies Department at California State University. He founded the seven-day celebration in 1966.


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