By Ashley Vergara, Grade 7
Kwanzaa Day is a week-long celebration that honors African heritage in African American culture during December. It is when black families come together to celebrate unity and culture. It began in 1966 to respond to the grief and despair following the Watts, LA riots. Maulana Karenga, a professor at the California State University of Long Beach, felt compelled to find a way for the African American community to come together.
During the week of Kwanzaa, families gather together to give gifts, share feasts and light candles to honor their ancestors. They also share what the day’s principle means to them while lighting one of the seven candles.
On Kwanzaa Day, celebrated on December 31, the seven candles are all lit. Each candle represents a different trait. The red candles represent the struggle or bloodshed from the past. It also symbolizes self-determination, cooperation, and economics. The green candles represent the Earth or the abundance of possibilities that the future holds. It symbolizes collective work, responsibility, and faith. The one black candle symbolizes the unity of the African people.
Kwanzaa Day is not a religious holiday but a cultural holiday that helps African Americans reconnect with their African roots and heritage. Kwanzaa Day begins on December 26 and ends on January 1, 2022. It is celebrated in different parts of Africa and other places like the United States, Canada, and the Caribbean.
On Kwanzaa Day, there are many activities to take part in, such as musical selections, African drum playing, storytelling, poetry reading, feasts, and more. Kwanzaa Day was created during social uprisings against racism to enlighten African Americans of their unique African culture.
Kwanzaa Day is compared to Christmas because of the timing and activities. Still, it is meant to celebrate African Americans’ unity and fight against oppression. In the mid-1960s, African Americans did not have the same rights as others enjoyed. Kwanzaa Day is meant to unite and fight against oppression and discrimination.
Before Kwanzaa Day, African Americans were frustrated because of black Americans’ little historical and cultural awareness. They suffered abuse at the hands of police and poverty, so the community protested and rioted. The unrest lasted a week and left 34 people dead and 1,000 people injured. The weeklong holiday includes candle-lighting ceremonies, feasts, and reflections on past struggles and future hopes. Kwanzaa Day is a holiday that has helped African Americans to embrace their unique heritage.