Looking ahead to Kwanzaa


Museums gearing up for African holiday



The holiday season is here and while you’re out celebrating, don’t forget about celebrating Kwanzaa. 

Kwanzaa is an African culturally-based holiday that runs from Dec. 26Jan. 1. 

There are annual Kwanzaa celebrations taking place in DeLand, New Smyrna Beach and Palm Coast. 

The holiday celebrates seven principles known as the 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). 

Worth celebrating

Those who are familiar with the holiday believe that it is worth celebrating. 

“It’s important that we celebrate all holidays. Kwanzaa speaks to us in a different way. It celebrates our traditions and heritage as African Americans, Africans and those of the African Diaspora,” said Mary Allen, executive director of the African American Museum of the Arts in DeLand. 

“In the ’60s, African Americans had a lot of trials, including financially. Kwanzaa celebrates us. It’s a way that we can come together as a community through its seven principles. It focuses on building our neighborhoods, community and self-pride. This holiday talks about us and who we are.” 

Learning experience 

Jimmy Harrell, director of the Mary S. Harrell Black Heritage Museum, noted: “It’s important; it gives our people, especially children, information on who they are and how they got here. 

“It gives them a chance to be proud of their heritage and culture. Our youth don’t get that instruction anywhere else. We try to make it a learning experience for them.” 

All races participate 

There are still people who aren’t familiar with the holiday, but it has grown and progressed over the years even here locally. 

“In New Smyrna, we have large turnouts. People and even the children all the way up to high school age seem to enjoy it. They continue to express an interest in it which keeps us doing it, said Harrell. 

Allen shared, “It wasn’t as well known when I first got here on the west side of Volusia County. “I came here from New Jersey. I did the first Kwanzaa celebration in Deltona in 1989. People continue to be a part of it and take an interest in it.”

“It’s not just African Americans but other ethnicities and races participating too,” said Allen.  “Also, if you have larger facilities you can do larger events which attracts more people and allows more people to participate.” 

Not religious 

Kwanzaa is right after Christmas but has no competition or similarities to it. 

“It has nothing to do with Christmas. Kwanzaa is not political, religious or socio economic. It’s a celebration of African and African American culture,” emphasized Allen. 

Harrell agreed, “It’s nothing to do with any of the other holidays. It’s not religious or political. We use it as an effort to teach children to be proud of who they are.”

Origins of Kwanzaa 

was created in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga as an act of cultural reconstruction. 

The African American and Pan African holiday celebrated by millions throughout the world African community, Kwanzaa brings a cultural message which speaks to the best of what it means to be African and human in the fullest sense. 

With over 2,000 languages, Kwanzaa adopted the Swahili language. Kwanzaa is rooted in African culture but people of all races, ethnic backgrounds and religions are welcomed to celebrate. 

Given the profound significance Kwanzaa has for African Americans and indeed, the world African community, it is imperative that an authoritative source and site be made available to give an accurate and expansive account of its origins, concepts, values, symbols and practice. 

DeLand celebration

The DeLand African American Museum of the Arts will have its Kwanzaa celebration on at 6 p.m. Dec. 28 at the museum at 325 South Clara Ave. 

Donya Maria Twyman, also known as “Mama D,” will be the guest speaker. She will speak on the principle “ujima,”which is collective work and responsibility. 

The event includes lighting of the ceremonial candles, spoken word, and food. 

New Smyrna event 

The Mary S. Harrell Black Heritage Museum presents its 19th annual Kwanzaa celebration on Dec. 28 at the museum, 314 Duss St., New Smyrna Beach. 

The 6 p.m. event will have music, guest speakers, entertainment, storytelling, artifacts on display, refreshments and more.  

Palm Coast screening 

The Palm Coast African American Cultural Society (AACS) will hold its annual Kwanzaa celebration on Dec. 29 from 2:30 p.m. until 5 p.m. at 4422 US 1 North, Palm Coast. 

There will be spoken word, vendors and a screening of the documentary, “The Black Candle” by M.K. Asanta Jr., narrated by Dr. Maya Angelou.



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