Kwanzaa celebrates African-American culture and heritage, allows Black community to connect with their ancestry

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PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — Garry Moore, long-time community activist, said this year’s Kwanzaa celebrations are a bit bigger and more profound due to the Black Lives Matter movement took off after the killing of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.

Moore has celebrated Kwanzaa since he was a young boy. The holiday was invented in 1966 during the Civil Rights Movement by Dr. Maulana Karenga. It is modeled after “first fruit” festivals, celebrated all over Africa. It is a way of exploring African history and heritage, as well as uniting the Black community.

“So much was taken from us: land, culture, language, religion, etc.,” Moore said. “Again, with Dr. Karenga, Kwanzaa is an attempt to recapture some of that, to reclaim some of that, to celebrate some of that.”

It has become a tradition in many, but not all, African- American households. The holiday spans 7 days — from Dec. 26 to Jan. 1 — and each day has a different theme. It uses practices from many parts of Africa. For many African-Americans who may not know their ancestry, it serves as a way to connect with their heritage.

The seven days of Kwanzaa represent seven different principles. They are in the Swahili language from East Africa. They are as follows:

  • Umoja: Unity
  • Kujichagulia: Self-Determination
  • Ujima: Collective work and responsibility
  • Ujamaa: Cooperative economics
  • Nia: Purpose
  • Kuumba: Creativity
  • Imani: Faith

A candleholder called a kinara is used to light a candle each day; one for each principle.

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