Kwanzaa: The Cultural Holiday

The Malcolm X Memorial Foundation (MXMF) sponsored a very colorful Kwanzaa Ceremony at the Loves Jazz and Art Center earlier this evening (dec. 29) as part of the seven days of Kwanzaa celebration that runs from Dec. 26-Jan.1.

Kwanzaa, was first celebrated in 1966 by Dr. Ron “Maulana” Kareng. Dr. Kareng created the event in order to provide a way for African Americans and all Africans of the Diasopora to remember, comemorate, and celebrate their shared African Heritage. Kwanzaa focuses on community, and the links between individuals, their community, and their communal history; the history that includes recognizing the Africanicity of themselves, as well as recognizing the struggles that have been endured since the Diaspora.

The celebration of Kwanzaa varies from community to community; but all Kwanzaa celebrations have several things in common. Kwanzaa begins on December 26th, and lasts until January 1st. A Kinara, bearing seven candles, one black symbolizing unity, 3 red candles symbolizing struggle, and 3 green candles symbolizing past and future victories and hope. The candles are lit, one each day, while rembering the 7 values of Kwanzaa, Umoja (Unity), Kujichagulia (Self-determination), Ujima (Collective work), Ujamaa( Cooperative Economics), Nia (Purpose), Kuumba (Creativity), and Imani, (Faith).

One of main themes that seperates Kwanzaa from other more popular celebrations at this time of year (namely Christmas and Hanukah) is it’s religous neutrality. Some might say that Kwanzaa is the anti-Christmas, which is not a fair representation. I would say that Kwanzaa is not the anti-christmas but to me it is a good solution to what christmas has come to represent, which is much more material focused as opposed to community oriented. It’s inclusiveness is most attributed to the fact that Kwanzaa is a cultural holiday that is celebrated worldwide.

The celebration commenced with some very impressive polyrythms performed by Seku Neblett who played four drums known as “Bougurabous” with “Shashas” around his wrists. His fluid movements were hipnotic, with hands that floated effortlessly from drum to drum creating a very full sound. The Board President of the MXMF, Sharif Liwaru, made an opening statement and was followed by a brief history of Kwanzaa by Monalisa Ward (MXMF board member). Longtime activist Vicky Parks led the crowd in Libations with people shouting the names of persons in their lives who have passed on. After every new name shouted she poured a drink of water into a designated plant to help it grow. Then a group of participants lighted the Kinara and gave speeches reflecting the principles that they represent. Sharif made closing remarks, and elaborated on the conceptual plans the MXMF has for the Malcolm X birth site, which they want to expand into an ampitheatre, park, and museum dedicated to Malcolm X and the principles that he represented. The MXMF has a big future planned and could use help in resources and knowledge, if you are interested in helping them move forward with their goals they can be reached at:

Malcolm X Memorial Foundation
3226 Lake St.
Omaha, Ne 68111
Direct: (402) 216-3695
VM/Fax: 800-645-9287
Email: malcolmxfoundation(at)