dr_maulana_karenga_web.jpgStaff Writer

After all the Christmas festivities have occurred, gifts opened, food eaten and prayers recited, a long-standing celebration of African culture begins.

It is Kwanzaa time.
Founded in 1966 by Maulana Karenga, currently a professor of Africana Studies at the California State University-Long, Kwanzaa was created to satisfy the increasing interest of blacks in African culture amidst America’s tumultuous racial climate.

The festival is observed from Dec. 26 through Jan. 1, with a different African principle spotlighted on each day.

Karenga created the observance with a strong focus on values, with adherents meditating on one principle for an entire day. According to the official Kwanzaa web site, the values reinforce family, community and culture among African-American people, as well as Africans in the Diaspora.

The values are the Nguzo Saba, which in Swahili means the “Seven Principles.” The focus on values is derived from Kawaida, the African philosophical framework in which it was created.

In Miami, one of the largest Kwanzaa celebrations is facilitated by the Miami-Dade Chapter of the Florida A&M University National Alumni Association, in partnership with Community Builders Holistic Development Corporation. It will take place at 4 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 26, at the African Heritage Cultural Arts Center, 6161 NW 22nd Ave. in Miami’s Liberty City neighborhood.

Nathaniel Styles, one of the event organizers, described it as one of the “few cultural events that families can attend…that reinforces positive values.”  He expects about 200 people from culturally diverse backgrounds to attend the free program.

“We’re expecting Afro-Cubans, Haitians, Africans and African Americans,” Styles said.

Taking a hip-hop approach to the cultural celebration, King Queen Productions will present “Raize it Up” from 8 p.m.  Jan. 1 to celebrate the occasion.

Hosted by SoulFlower, it will include “conscious” hip-hop, soul, roots and culture DJs, African drumming, dance, yoga, natural healing and
relationship workshops.

It will include children’s activities, tribal face painting, henna tatooing, and “pampering” for the elders.

The event takes place at what is referred to as a “massive Jamaican Rasta Yard,” Naomi’s Garden, 650 NW 71st St., also in Liberty City.

The African American Research Library and Cultural Center and the Broward Public Library Foundation will present "A Kwanzaa Celebration" at the library from 5 to 7:30 pm on Dec. 29 at the AARLCC.

While the festival’s origins resulted from a sense of disenfranchisement that blacks felt over white America and its holiday traditions, Karenga maintains that Kwanzaa’s principles are very relevant to current affairs.  In his annual statement regarding the holiday, Karenga said in 2009 that “in our world and time when words of hope and change evaporate into business as usual, when peace is postponed for war, social programs put on hold, bankers bailed out and the poor erased from the agenda, Imani (Faith) offers a shield against despair, cynicism and paralyzing disappointment.”

Renee Michelle Harris may be reached at RMHarris15@Bellsouth.net.

Photo: Maulana Karenga

Kwanzaa Principles:

1. Umoja (unity) U-MO-JA
2. Kujicahgulia (self determination) KU-JI-CHA-GU-LIA
3. Ujima (collective work and responsibility) U-JI-MA
4. Ujamaa (cooperative economics) U-JA-MA
5. Nia (purpose) NIA
6. Kuumba (creativity) KU-UM-BA
7. Imani (faith) I-MANI