Festival on Mall celebrates African American culture

By Lisa Heller

Arizona Daily Wildcat

The annual Kwanzaa celebration, based on the traditional African harvest of the first crops, began Friday and continued all day Saturday on the UA campus.

The two-day holiday, typically celebrated Dec. 26-Jan. 1, included workshops about the holiday and the African culture, African dancers and drummers, a candle-lighting ceremony and the final event, Karamu, the celebration feast of Kwanzaa.

Mavlana Karenga, a professor of Pan-African studies and a black cultural leader, created Kwanzaa in 1966. Kwanzaa comes from the Swahili phrase meaning first fruits.

Kwanzaa brings together the elements of the significant attributes of various African cultures, said Patricia Blackwell of News Services. They are derived from Swahili names including: Kuumba (creativity), Imani (faith), Kujichagulia (self-determination), Ujima (unity), Nia (purpose) and Ujamaa (cooperative economics).

Typically, Africans light a candle each day, signifying each principle, Blackwell said.

"It is a traditional way for African Americans to celebrate their culture as a family," said Blackwell. "It is at the time of year when Christians and non-Christians are in a celebratory mode."

The feast, held Saturday night in McClelland Hall, was intended to teach others how to celebrate Kwanzaa, said Blackwell.

"It was a great coming together of the African American community," said Ivory Perkins, a chemistry senior. Perkins was one winner in an essay contest about Kwanzaa. "After coming, I would like to celebrate it in the same type of form in my own family," he said.

The candle-lighting, a typical ceremony for the Kwanzaa celebration, incorporated the colors of the African flag. A black candle is lit first, symbolizing unity of the African people; then three red, for struggle; then three green, for hope for the future.

Tolagbe Ogunleye, of African American Studies said the turnout of community members was great. "There wasn't enough room a lot of people had to stand."

Dr. Jesse Hargrove, assistant dean of African American

Student Affairs, attended the festivities and praised the outcome. "The sense of unity was outstanding," he said. "There was a good sense of faith among the people in the university and in society."

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