Local News

Millions Celebrate Kwanzaa, Educate Others

Posted December 27, 1997 12:00 a.m. EST

The Kinarah is lit during each night of Kwanzaa.

— Even though Kwanzaa has been around for more than three decades, it's only gained a lot of attention in the last several years. In fact, a lot of people, including African Americans, still don't know that much about Kwanzaa. Saturday, there was a lot to learn at the North Carolina Museum of Art.

Deborah Reid-Murphy believes a little education about Kwanzaa is great exposure for her family. It's in the music, in the crafts and in the clothes. It's also a chance to celebrate the harvest and the good in others.

The celebration was started in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga. Now, more than 30 years later, close to 15 million African Americans take part in the holiday. But, there are still many people in the African American community who don't know what Kwanzaa's all about.

"I think at first folks were skeptical," Reid-Murphy admits. "Some folks thought it was supposed to substitute for Christmas. Others thought it was something radical and wanted to stay away from it."

Now with the holiday gaining popularity, many people want to learn more about it. Renee Clark wants to learn because so many people are talking about it. Clark realizes Kwanzaa has to do with her African background, so she wanted to know more so she could share the celebration with her children.

‚Nancy Henriksen had no idea Kwanzaa wasn't a religious holiday. Now that she knows it's a time of renewal, she wants her children, who are homeschooled, to know what it's all about.

Kwanzaa is based on seven different principles, and during the weeklong celebration families light one candle every day on the Kinarah to recognize those principles.

Unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith all speak to the importance of keeping the African American community together. The hope is Kwanzaa will allow future generations to celebrate their own past.

Kwanzaa means "first fruit" in Swahili. The holiday runs from December 26th through New Year's Day.