Kwanzaa Celebration Begins

Kwanzaa, the African American festival created by the chairman of the Cal State Long Beach Africana Studies, is in its 36th year and lasts seven days. Learn about its history and significance.

A parade was held along Crenshaw Boulevard in Los Angeles Wednesday to mark the start of the seven-day African American festival of Kwanzaa.

The theme of the 36th annual Kwanzaa Gwaride Parade and Festival is "Freedom from Obesity,'' according to R.W. Akile of KwanZaa People of Color,
which organizes the parade and festival.

Dr. Mezia O. Azinge Obasi, the owner of Dr. Paul Memorial Medical Center and a provider of family and alternative medicine health care, will be the Iyaba (queen) of the parade and Lamar Price, a certified iridologist and practitioner of alternative medicine, will be the Oba (king).

The parade began at 11:30 a.m. at the corner of Crenshaw and Adams boulevards, then headed south along Crenshaw to Leimert Park, where it concluded. A festival followed in Leimert Park.

Kwanzaa's History

Kwanzaa was created in 1966 by Maulana Karenga, now chairman of Cal State Long Beach's Department of Africana Studies, in what he called "an audacious act of self-determination.''

Kwanzaa's focus is the "Nguzo Saba,'' the Seven Principles — unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith.

During the week, a candelabrum called a Kinara is lit, and ears of corn representing each child in the family are placed on a traditional straw mat.

African foods such as millet, spiced pepper balls and rice are often served. Some people fast during the holiday, and a feast is often held on its
final night.

A flag with three bars — red for the struggle for freedom, black for unity and green for the future — is sometimes displayed during the holiday.

Kwanzaa is based on the theory of Kawaida, which espouses that social
revolutionary change for black America can be achieved by exposing blacks to
their cultural heritage.

Karenga's Message

"The celebration and season of Kwanzaa is a deeply meaningful and special time of remembrance, reflection and recommitment for us as a people throughout the world African community,'' Karenga wrote in his annual founder's message.

"It is a time of appreciative remembrance of our ancestors, great and
ordinary, of the models of human excellence, achievement and possibility they
offer and of the enduring legacy of the good they left in the world. It is too, a time of sustained reflection on the moral and expansive meaning of being African in the world, especially on how we understand and live our lives and engage the critical issues confronting our community, society and the world.''

A poll commissioned by the National Retail Federation and conducted by BIGinsight Oct. 2-8 found that of the 92.7 percent of the 8,899 adults surveyed who said they would celebrate any of the winter holidays, 2.1 percent said they would celebrate Kwanzaa, compared to 93.8 percent for Christmas and 5.9 percent for Hanukkah.


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