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Special Events & Cultural Arts

Posted on: November 2, 2018

De-Mystifying the Kwanzaa Holiday

November Cover- green painted canvas

De-mystifying the Kwanzaa Holiday By Tish Powell, Elgin City Councilwoman & Liaison to the Elgin Cultural Arts Commission One of my first deep dives into Kwanzaa was when a childhood friend decided to have an African-themed wedding. I was given the role of the Storyteller -- which included reciting each of the Seven Principles of Kwanzaa during the ceremony. Learning how to pronounce all of the principles, especially “Kujichagulia”, was an accomplishment in itself, and one that renewed my curiosity about the Kwanzaa holiday. 

History: Kwanzaa is an African-American and pan-African holiday dedicated to the celebration of family, community and culture. Created in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga, a professor of Africana Studies, Kwanzaa is a seven day cultural festival that begins December 26th and ends January 1st. Kwanzaa is a unique blend of values and practices of African and African-American culture. During the holiday, families and communities organize activities around the Nguzo Saba (The Seven Principles): •Umoja (Unity) •Kujichagulia (Self-Determination) •Ujima (Collective Work & Responsibility) •Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics) •Nia (Purpose) •Kuumba (Creativity) •Imani (Faith) Participants also celebrate with feasts (karamu), music, dance, poetry, narratives and end the holiday with a day dedicated to reflection and recommitment to Nguzo Saba. 

Local focus this year: Elgin will host its second-annual Kwanzaa Celebration, “Kwanzaa Stories & Celebration”, on Sunday, December 2nd from 1-3 p.m. at the Gail Borden Public Library. Co-sponsored by the Elgin Cultural Arts Commission and Gail Borden Public Library, the free, family-friendly event will include storytelling, music, dance and activities around each of the Seven Principles of Kwanzaa. In additional to local artists and community groups, the event will feature Chicago-based storytellers Kucha & Baba Tony, who have performed at several local schools and Elgin’s International Festival (IFest). Kucha and Baba Tony will lead the audience thru an interactive celebration of Kwanzaa, including storytelling, music and the symbolic lighting of the candles. Kucha, whose name means “dawning” or “first light” in Ki-Swahili, believes that celebrating Kwanzaa is especially important for African-American children. “Kwanzaa speaks directly to our roots--- our children. Our children are exposed to so many negative things in our society today. Kwanzaa reinforces positive principles to live by in hopes of guiding our youth, making them stronger, more responsible members of society. It is a way to start the New Year off right, by encouraging our children to not only survive, but to excel.” 

For more information, visit the City of Elgin’s website at or check out the Elgin Cultural Arts Commission’s Facebook page. #KwanzaaCelebration #GetPrincipled

Be sure check out the rest of BRAVO Magazine where this article originally appeared.  BRAVO Magazine is an Elgin, Illinois ink-and-paper monthly magazine devoted to arts, entertainment, community events & dining.

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