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Tonight, hundreds gathered in the auditorium of the University of Massachusetts Campus Center to celebrate the African-American holiday Kwanzaa.13478110_kwanzaa

Kwanzaa is a week long (Dec. 26-Jan. 1) celebration of African heritage. Founded in 1966 by Maulana Karenga, Kwanzaa allows African-Americans the chance to celebrate their history, as opposed to conforming to and imitating other traditional cultural customs. Karenga said of Kwanzaa:

“It gives Blacks an opportunity to celebrate themselves and history, rathe than imitate the practice of dominate society.”

Kwanzaa celebrates the “Seven Principles of Kwanzaa” which are:

-Umoja (unity)

-Kojichagulia (self-determination)

Ujima (collective work and responsibility)

-Ujamaa (cooperative economics)

Nia (purpose)

Kuumba (creativity)

-Imani (faith)

Kwanzaa is traditionally celebrated with a lights ceremony, cultural objects and artifacts, traditional art pieces, traditional cloths, and accompanying song and dance. A giant feast (Karamu marks the end of Kwanzaa, usually celebrated on New Year’s Eve.

Tonight’s festivities included much song and dance, poetry, inspirational speeches, and of course-the feast.

The Cape Verdian club performed a traditional dance routine, very similar to a belly-dance, while new-aged cultural music blared over the PA system.

Two drummers from Senegal masterfully performed a cultural drum routine, bringing the packed auditorium to their feet. A number of speakers voiced their opinions in poems, speeches, musical pieces.

After a few songs by the chorus (one being “I’m In Love With Jesus”) the food was blessed and the feast began. Macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes, fried chicken, cornbread, and bean casserole filled the buffet line, as (in tradition) the elders lined up first to fill up their plates, no doubt hungry after the two-hour long ceremony.

And with that, my first Kwanzaa ceremony came to an end.

In reflection, Kwanzaa is a great opportunity for African-Americans to come together and celebrate their rich history. In the spirit of the holidays, and in the spirit of good tides, it was touching to see so many people come together under one common bond.

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