kwanzaa.jpgLAS CRUCES, N.M. (AP) _ People who are celebrating Kwanzaa say this year's observance carries special meaning because of the election of the country's first black president, Barack Obama.

Kwanzaa, which started on Friday and runs through next Thursday, celebrates ancient cultures and traditions with seven days, seven principles and seven symbols that symbolize the unity, heritage and aspirations of those with roots in African cultures.

For Georjeanna Feltha, this year's celebration started with Obama's victory on Election Day.

“Since the election of Barack Obama, I really feel the presence of powerful and positive spiritual energy,'' Feltha said. “I have received so many correspondences via e-mail that show the simultaneous celebrations around the world when he (was elected).''

Lola Lestrick of Las Cruces has been celebrating Kwanzaa for 15 years, but this year she says she has seen history being made with Obama's victory.

“I never thought I would live to see it. I knew it was coming, but I didn't think it would ever be coming in my time,'' Lestrick said.

In previous celebrations, she has enjoyed both the cultural and spiritual significance of Kwanzaa.

“It means that we are a people, that as black people, we can celebrate our culture. We can let people know who we are. We are proud of our culture and proud of who we are,'' she said.

Lestrick said Kwanzaa celebrators light a candle each day on the Kinara, which is a traditional Kwanzaa candle holder.

Brenda Dabney of the African American Catholic Organization in Albuquerque told KRQE-TV the candles' colors are symbolic. Black stands for dark skin, red is for the struggle that blacks have had and green is for the hope of the future, she said.

The candles also symbolize the seven principles of Kwanzaa: unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith.

Kwanzaa was founded in 1966 by Maulana Karenga, who was chairman of the Department of Black Studies at California State University, to celebrate the African-American people, their culture and their history.


Information from: Las Cruces Sun-News,