When California State University Professor Maulana Karenga started Kwanzaa in 1966, he wanted it to be a holiday devoted to African-American culture and heritage. Today the observance remains an annual tradition across the United States -- and Columbus is no exception.
Kwanzaa, which means "first fruits" in Swahili, is observed Dec. 26 through Jan. 1. Candles are lit each day focusing on seven principles: Umoja (Unity), Kujichagulia (Self-Determination), Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility), Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics), Nia (Purpose), Kuumba (Creativity) and Imani (Faith).
In Columbus, two organizations will host Kwanzaa events this week that are free and open to the public.
The Columbus Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. will kick off the holiday at 6 p.m. today, with a Kwanzaa celebration at the Delta House, 4925 Forrest Road. The program will be cosponsored by the Metro Black Nurses Association. It will also include participants from the Delta Gems, a youth group for girls 12 and older, and Embodi, a group for young men.
Dorothy Harris, chairwoman of the organiza
tion's International Awareness and Involvement Committee, said the program will teach the youths about their cultural heritage through music, poetry and dance. A cultural feast will follow.
"We think it's important because it gives our history, and it talks about the different principles that are part of Kwanzaa," she said. "We think young people need to know these things since they're not getting it in school."
On Friday, Project Rebound Inc. will hold its 19th annual Kwanzaa celebration at the Liberty Theatre Cultural Center, 813 Eighth Ave.
The event will be held from 6 to 7 p.m. It will include a panel discussion on The State of Human Relations in Columbus and a video tribute to Nelson Mandela, according to information released by the organization.
J. Aleem Hudd, CEO of Project Rebound, has been organizing the local Kwanzaa celebration for the past 19 years. He said the principles emphasized during the holiday contain the answers to many community problems, including poverty and crime.
He remembers when the African-American community was a place where everyone looked out for one another and young people respected their elders. But today many children are losing their way, he said, because those societal norms no longer exist. That's why Hudd believes it's important for everyone to embrace Kwanzaa, and he hopes many people will show up to local celebrations.
"The principles, the values, the folk ways, the attitudes, the types of relationships, the priorities that our grandmothers had that set us on a path to achieve more than people of African descent anywhere in the world, we're losing that because we don't celebrate Kwanzaa today," he said. "In Kwanzaa all of those things are embedded and we can continue to inculcate them into our children and into the society."
At the Liberty Theatre, cultural gift items will be on sale and entertainment will include poetry/spoken word, gospel, dance and Hip-Hop/R&B performances.
Gabbie McGee, a jazz vocalist based in Atlanta, will present songs from her latest CD, "Mississippi's Daughter!" And the African American Leadership Summit will announce recipients of the Malcolm X Leadership Award, John Brown Leadership Award, Viola Liuzzo Award and the Harriet Tubman Award.
At the event, organizers will also accept tax-deductable donations to support programs at the Liberty Theatre, according to the news release issued by Hudd.