When the holiday season comes around, some celebrations get overshadowed by Christmas, but one student organization is determined to change that.
To celebrate black heritage and history, the Black Student Alliance is hosting its annual Kwanzaa celebration in Old Dominion Ballroom at Squires Student Center tonight at 6:30.
Lauren Heming, a senior accounting major, is the BSA director of cultural awareness and helps organize the event.
“I know a lot of us individually don’t celebrate Kwanzaa at home with our families, but we consider BSA a little family of its own,” Heming said. “To celebrate it with BSA every year — it’s like a tradition. It’s one of those things we don’t know a lot about, so we can learn about it together because it’s a part of our heritage.”
For some students, like Nneoma Nwanko, a freshman political science major, this will be their first Kwanzaa celebration.
“We don’t celebrate Kwanzaa at home in Nigeria,” Nwanko said. “We haven’t really needed to. This is my first Kwanzaa. I’m so hyped to go because I know it’s a big deal for BSA here and I’m excited for the food.”
Kwanzaa is an African American and Pan-African holiday celebrated by millions throughout the world's African community, and it is a result of the Black Nationalist movement in the 1960s.
A relatively new holiday, Kwanzaa was created in 1966 by Maulana Karenga as a weeklong celebration celebrated from December 16 to January 1. Karenga established Kwanzaa as a means to help African Americans reconnect with their cultural and African heritage by uniting and studying African traditions through the seven principles.
Each day of Kwanzaa represents each one of the seven principles observed during the holiday: Unity (Umoja), self determination (Kujichagulia), collective work and responsibility (Ujima), cooperative economics (Ujamaa), purpose (Nia), creativity (Kuumba), and faith (Imani).
Each principle represents a candle that is to be lit for each day that passes. A symbol of Kwanzaa, the “kinara” — a Swahili phrase meaning candle “candle holder” — holds three green candles to represent Africa, three red candles to represent the blood shed, and one single black candle to symbolize the African race.
The goal of Kwanzaa is to give African Americans an alternative to existing holidays and an opportunity to celebrate their history. Kwanzaa, for a lot of African Americans, represents what it means to be African and human in the fullest sense.
For the students of BSA, Kwanzaa holds a deeper meaning as a whole.
“It’s the whole thing in general; it’s the one time a year the community comes together for one reason, to learn about our heritage,” Heming said. “It’s a good place for fellowship, and it’s a good reason for fellowship.”
The event will feature April Turner’s production company, Life as Art Productions, which will be providing traditional costumes as well as a performance. The Kwanzaa story will unfold with African drumming, dancing, storytelling and original music performances.
The banquet will feature a soul food dinner, sponsored by Champs Sports Bar and Cafe. Foods included at this dinner include a variety of traditional Southern foods such as chicken, catfish and mashed potatoes.
The very name Kwanzaa derives from the Swahili phrase “matunda ya kwanza,” meaning “first fruits of the harvest.” Fresh fruit and corn at the banquet are meant to represent a respect for agriculture and natural foods.
The BSA is committed to authenticity for the celebration, allowing participants to learn about African American heritage.