Dec. 27, 2004 Many Virgin Islanders have joined with African descendants around the world for the weeklong celebration of Kwanzaa. Sunday marked the beginning of the observance with ceremonies emphasizing unity among people of African descent. (See Story on St. Croix Source "Kwanzaa Begins With Demonstration of Unity"). Tuesday, there will be a celebration on St. Thomas at the Enid Baa Library.
The cultural celebration, which was founded by Dr. Maulana Karenga, is observed annually from Dec. 26 to Jan. 1.
Karenga founded the holiday in 1966 as a way of "celebrating family, community and culture," according to his official Kwanzaa Web site "http://www.officialkwanzaawebsite.org".
According to the site, Kwanzaa is celebrated during this period because its origins are in the first harvest celebrations of Africa from which it takes its name.
"Kwanzaa" is derived from the phrase "matunda ya kwanza" which means "first fruits" in Swahili the most widely spoken African language.
Kuumba Leba Ola-Niyi, an educator, artist and Pan-Africanist born on St. Thomas, said Monday that based on Karenga's studies of African culture, the seven principles or "Nguzo saba" of Kwanzaa were developed from "Kawaida," a communitarian African philosophy.
The seven principles are:
– Umoja or unity,
– Kujichagulia or self-determination,
– Ujima or collective work and responsibility,
– Ujamaa cooperative economics,
– Nia or purpose,
– Kuumba or creativity,
– And Imani or faith.
"Based on the Kawaidan philosophy, we can use these seven principles as a guide," Ola-Niyi said.
Ola-Niyi said he embraces Kwanzaa because of the African values. Monday he observed the principle of Kujichagulia with his family and friends.
"Kwanzaa is not a Black Christmas or an alternative to Christmas," Ola-Niyi said. "It is a cultural celebration bringing families together."
Ola-Niyi will be a presenter at the Third Annual Kwanzaa celebration Tuesday at 10 a.m. at the Enid Baa Library.
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