BY ANDREAS BUTLER
While many are still preparing for Christmas and finishing up their holiday shopping, some local organizations already have their minds on Kwanzaa.
Local Kwanzaa celebrations will take place in Palm Coast, New Smyrna Beach and DeLand.
Organizers say the holiday – which celebrates family, community and culture – is as special and relevant as it was in 1966 when created by Dr. Maulana Karenga as an act of cultural reconstruction. Kwanzaa is celebrated from Dec. 26 to Jan. 1.
“It is more important now because of the political constraints upon us. It’s important that we know where we came from and that we depend upon each other to survive,” said Brenda Andrews, chair of the Cultural Committee for the African-American Cultural Society in Palm Coast.
‘Celebrating our history’
The African American Cultural Society will hold its Kwanzaa event on Friday, Dec. 29 from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the Palm Coast Cultural Center, 4422 N. US Highway 1.
The Mary S. Harrell Black Heritage Museum in collaborated with P.E.A.C.E. Arts will host its annual Kwanzaa celebration from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 26, at the Alonzo “Babe’’ James Community Center, 201 N. Myrtle Ave., New Smyrna Beach.
Jimmy Harrell, executive director of the New Smyrna Beach museum, related, “It’s all about celebrating community, family and heritage. It’s really important, especially for kids. We’re all about celebrating our history here at the Black Heritage Museum.”
The African American Museum of the Arts in DeLand also will host a Kwanzaa celebration on Saturday, Dec. 30 from 6 p.m. until 8 p.m. at the museum, 325 S. Clara Ave.
Kwanzaa adopted the Swahili language. The holiday is based on seven principles also known as Nguzo Saba. These principals are umoja (unity), kujichagulia (self-determination), ujima (collective work and responsibility), ujamaa (cooperative economics), nia (purpose), kuumba (creativity) and imani (faith).
“It’s all about studying the history and culture of people of African descent. We at the African American Cultural Society are all about educating people on our history and culture,” Andrews reflected.
The holiday is rooted in African culture but people of all races, ethnic backgrounds and religions celebrate it.
In Palm Coast, the African American Cultural Society has been hosting its annual celebration for 25 years.
“Anything that doesn’t grow is dead. The event is definitely growing here in Palm Coast. There are larger numbers of African-Americans celebrating the holiday both locally and nationally,” added Andrews.
The Kwanzaa event in New Smyrna also has seen progression during its 17-year history.
“It has really grown. We’ve been able to get more kids involved. We started out doing it at the museum, but now we use the ‘Babe’ James Center to accommodate larger crowd,” noted Harrell.
In New Smyrna, the celebration will include singing, food, reflecting on the seven principles of Kwanzaa, and the presentation of an art mural by local artist Shyriaka “Shy’’ Morris of P.E.A.C.E. Arts Studios.
“We should celebrate Kwanzaa because of its seven principles. The more we learn and understand our communities, the better off we become as a community. These principles should be daily affirmations to ensure that our communities are in unison and thriving economically for our future generations.”
Focus on economics
In Palm Coast, the event takes place during the day focusing on the principle ujima (cooperative economics).
Andrews told the Times, “We are celebrating on the day of ujima, which is economic cooperation. That is our need. We will have plenty of African-American vendors. We encourage attendees to support Black vendors and Black-owned businesses.”
Entertainment will include singers and steppers.
Dr. Frank Ross will lead the Grand March, which is an African storytelling tradition that tells African history and culture.
Day of purpose
The DeLand celebration will be held on the day focusing on the Kwanzaa principle nia (purpose).
It will include poetry, food, a guest speaker to be named and community involvement. The event is being sponsored by Volusia County and the Florida African-American Heritage Preservation Network.
African American Cultural Society, Palm Coast: 386-447-7030
African American Museum of the Arts, DeLand: 386-734-4004
Mary S. Harrell Black Heritage Museum, New Smyrna Beach: 386-478-1934
More on Kwanzaa history: www.officialkwanzaawebsite.org