Sunday, December 26, 2010

Kwanzaa Starts Today

Today's the first day of Kwanzaa, the seven-day festival that black nationalist Maulana (Ron) Karenga started back in 1966. Each day celebrates a theme, and today's is umoja, unity.

Karenga founded the US Organization in the wake of the 1964 Watts riots to build a positive, independent self-identity for African-Americans; the seven-point Nguzo Saba value system that Kwanzaa reflects was meant to help achieve this end.

Kwanzaa has a definite Afro-centric political bent (the Nguzo Saba principles are Swahili words), and Karenga designed it specifically as a secular cultural celebration that African-Americans could observe in conjunction with any religious holiday (it's a common misconception that Kwanzaa is tied to a religion).

Across the US, a number of organizations are marking the start of Kwanzaa: in Charlotte, the Harvey B. Gantt Center has events planned from 1-5 PM; in New York City, the American Museum of Natural History, from 12-5 PM.