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Kwanzaa celebration
By The Skanner News | The Skanner News
Published: 23 December 2019

Portlanders will gather to celebrate Kwanzaa a seven-day holiday honoring African American culture, history and heritage. Kwanzaa was created in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga and has been embraced by millions throughout the world. Portland has held Kwanzaa celebrations for the past 48 years.

The First Day of Kwanzaa

Thursday, Dec. 26, 2019
4-9 p.m.
Matt Dishman Community Center
77 NE Knott St.

This year’s theme is “Living Kwanzaa and the Seven Principles: An All-Seasons Celebration and Practice of the Good.” The first day of Kwanzaa focuses on the principle of unity in the family, community, nation and race. Participants are invited to share in the creation of a blueprint for community unity to guide the celebration of Kwanzaa.

December 26 @ 8:00 pm - 11:00 pm 

Umoja (Unity) 

All Ages Kwanzaa Open Mic Hip Hop 

Thursday, Dec. 26, 2019
8-11 p.m.
Mississippi Pizza
3552 N Mississippi Ave.

From Pizza My Mind, the show is an all ages Open Mic for hip hop artists, comedians and poetry. The show is in celebration of Kwanzaa. Bring the family & Holiday Drink Specials for 21+. The event features poets, comedians, and musicians of all ages. Open mic sign-ups start at 8 p.m., show starts at 8:30 p.m. 

Donations Accepted at Door Include: Lightly used winter gear (wash if possible before bringing):  Coats,  Sweatshirts, Blankets, Closed toe shoes, Non-perishable food 

Unwrapped new items to benefit children of Young Portland Parents: Toys & gift cards, especially for kids over the age of 12, Diapers, wipes, formula, Kids winter clothes & shoes, Kids athletic clothes & shoes (to encourage more activity by providing comfortable fitting gear to play in!) 

At North Portland Library: Kwanzaa, A Celebration of Family, Community and Culture

Saturday, December 28, 2019
11 a.m.
512 N Killingsworth St.

Kwanzaa, meaning "first fruits," is a week-long (December 26 to January 1) celebration of African American culture, heritage and values. Each of the seven days is dedicated to one of the following Kwanzaa principles: Umoja (Unity), Kujichagulia (Self-Determination), Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility), Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics), Nia (Purpose), Kuumba (Creativity) and Imani (Faith).

Come and celebrate the fourth principle, Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics), during the library's Family Kwanzaa Celebration. Light refreshments provided. For information, visit the Multnomah County Library website.

At SEI: Kwanzaa Day 3: Ujima (collective work and responsibility)

Saturday, December 28, 2019
4 p.m. - 7 p.m.
Self Enhancement, Inc.
3920 N Kerby Ave.

Everyone is invited to this free community event. Presented by the Diverse and Empowered Employees of Portland (DEEP) and the Office of Equity and Human Rights (OEHR). Join us for children’s activities, libations, candle-lighting ceremony, ancestral roll call, marketplace, music, poetry, and food by Soup Coolerz. FEATURING: Mama Joyce Harris, S. Renee Mitchell, Sebe’ Kan African Dance, Caton Lyles, 503 Sliders, DJ Michael Morris


From Frank E. Dobson, Associate Dean of Students, Vanderbilt University via The Conversation:

As a scholar who has written about racially motivated violence against Blacks, directed Black cultural centers on college campuses and sponsored numerous Kwanzaa celebrations, I understand the importance of this holiday.

For the African-American community, Kwanzaa is not just any “Black holiday.” It is a recognition that knowledge of Black history is worthwhile.

History of Kwanzaa

Maulana Karenga, a noted Black American scholar and activist created Kwanzaa in 1966. Its name is derived from the phrase “matunda ya kwanza” which means “first fruits” in Swahili, the most widely spoken African language. However, Kwanzaa, the holiday, did not exist in Africa.

Each day of Kwanzaa is devoted to celebrating the seven basic values of African culture or the “Nguzo Saba” which in Swahili means the seven principles. Translated these are: unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics (building Black businesses), purpose, creativity and faith. A candle is lit on each day to celebrate each one of these principles. On the last day, a Black candle is lit and gifts are shared.

Today, Kwanzaa is quite popular. It is celebrated widely on college campuses, the U.S. Postal Service has periodically issued Kwanzaa stamps, there is at least one municipal park named for it, and there are special Kwanzaa greeting cards.

Kwanzaa’s meaning for Black community

Kwanzaa was created by Karenga out of the turbulent times of the 1960’s in Los Angeles, following the 1965 Watts riots, when a young African-American was pulled over on suspicions of drunk driving, resulting in an outbreak of violence.

Subsequently, Karenga founded an organization called Us – meaning, Black people – which promoted Black culture. The purpose of the organization was to provide a platform, which would help to rebuild the Watts neighborhood through a strong organization rooted in African culture.

Karenga called its creation an act of cultural discovery, which simply meant that he wished to point African-Americans to greater knowledge of their African heritage and past.

Rooted in the struggles and the gains of the civil rights and Black power movements of the 1950s and 1960s, it was a way of defining a unique Black American identity. As Keith A. Mayes, a scholar of African-American history, notes in his book,Kwanzaa: Black Power and the Making of the African-American Holiday Tradition

“For Black power activists, Kwanzaa was just as important as the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

"Kwanzaa was their answer to what they understood as the ubiquity of White cultural practices that oppressed them as thoroughly as had Jim Crow laws.”

Overturning White definitions

Today, the holiday has come to occupy a central role, not only in the U.S. but also in the global African diaspora.

A 2008 documentary, “The Black Candle” that filmed Kwanzaa observances in the United States and Europe, shows children not only in the United States, but as far away as France, reciting the principles of the Nguzo Saba.

It brings together the Black community not on the basis of their religious faith, but a shared cultural heritage. Explaining the importance of the holiday for African-Americans today, writer Amiri Baraka, says during an interview in the documentary,

“We looked at Kwanzaa as part of the struggle to overturn White definitions for our lives.”

Indeed, since the early years of the holiday, until today, Kwanzaa has provided many Black families with tools for instructing their children about their African heritage.


A portion of this article was originally pubished in The Conversation.The Conversation

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