imani_sunrise2_web.jpgHOLLYWOOD – A group of 40 participated in a sunrise gathering at Hollywood beach on the last day of Kwanzaa for the annual Njia Unity Meditation Ceremony, an event offering yoga and meditation to replenish the body’s energy for the new year.

The ceremony, started by the Khepera Black Studies Group and sponsored by Black Genius Kemetic Yoga, Star Team Marketing and D&Q Communications, Inc., is held at the ocean to remind the participants of the many ships on which the ancestors came, according to event organizer Aunkh Aakhu.

“It’s just south of the historic black beach, the perfect place to honor the ancestors and reflect on our own accomplishments,” he said.
Njia, in Swahili, means “the way.”

The Jan. 1 ceremony opened with the pouring of libations, during which Aakhu defined and discussed Kwanzaa’s seven principles. It included African dance and drummers.

“We reflect on what we as a people have done throughout the past year to make a difference,” he explained. “The principles must become a part of our daily lives.”

Aakhu led the group through a series of intense Chi Gong movements and self massage, which he said, “brings energy to the body so one can come down to a meditative state and focus on new beginnings.”

Chi means “air” in Chinese. Gong means “work applied to a discipline” or the resultant level of skill. Chi Gong is thus breath work or energy work.

Rique Ennis, the ceremony’s co-organizer, performed the “burning of the negatives,” which he described as a ceremonial “burning and burial of paper on which the participants penned a list of behaviors they felt would impede their successes and dreams for the New Year.”

The physical burning of the paper is symbolic of the self-given power to move forward and achieve, leaving bad habits in the past, Ennis explained.

“We not only celebrate, but make a true mental effort to improve our life’s conditions,” Kwame Ifo, 37, of Sunrise, said about the burning.

“For me, it represents liberation from mental slavery. Life is short, and excuses are no excuse for not doing better for our families and our people. We owe at least that much to the ancestors.”

Sister Keppa Nia, 26, of Lauderhill, who attended the ceremony for the first time, said she felt that the ceremony is about new beginnings and “not just the first day of a new year or the first day of Kwanzaa, but a new start as a people.

“We have so much to look forward to this year, and we must recognize and honor the ancestors who paved the way through strife, and many times death, for these opportunities.”

Photo by Khary Bruyning