Celebrating Kwanzaa during the pandemic

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Museum creates video for people who want to celebrate the holiday at home

Dr. Mary Allen lights the kinara during the taping of a video on how to celebrate Kwanzaa at home.
DUANE C. FERNANDEZ SR./HARDNOTTSPHOTOGRAPHY.COM

BY ANDREAS BUTLER
DAYTONA TIMES

Historically, there have been local public Kwanzaa celebrations in Flagler and Volusia counties.

The holiday, which focuses on African American culture and borrows from many African cultures and tribes, runs from Dec. 26 through Jan. 1.

This year, the African American Museum of the Arts in DeLand has created a video that can be accessed online. It gives details on how to celebrate the holiday.

“We did a virtual talk about Kwanzaa. The museum is closed due to COVID-19. We have been doing our celebration for the last 16 years. This is the first year we didn’t have it. We decided to teach the public about the holiday,’’ said Dr. Mary Allen, executive director of the museum.

A how-to guide

The video will be available during the Kwanzaa holiday online at www.vimeo.com/deepfocusnews. Deep Focus News is an online community news blog created by Daytona Times photographer Duane C. Fernandez Sr.

The video also covers the principles and symbols of Kwanzaa.

“We just wanted to give people an idea of how to add elements and do the celebration,” she told the Times.

Kwanzaa is based on seven principals known as Nguzo Saba in umoja (unity), kujichagulia (self-determinations), ujima (collective work and responsibility), ujamaa (collective economics), nia (purpose), kuumba (creativity), imani (faith).

‘Festival of harvest’

Kwanzaa was created by Dr. Maulana Karenga in 1966 as a way of cultural restructuring.

The Pan-African holiday is celebrated by millions around the world, including those of the African Diaspora. Kwanzaa brings a cultural message that speaks to the best of what it means to be African and human in the fullest.

Kwanzaa is rooted in African culture but celebrated by all races, ethnic backgrounds and religions.

“It’s a holiday for African Americans and our families, community and culture. It ties us with our roots and is based in African tradition. Kwanzaa dives into different African tribes and cultures. It’s a festival of harvest and done in many different African societies,’’ Allen noted.

Visitors celebrate Kwanzaa at a past event at the African American Museum of the Arts in DeLand. The museum is closed because of the pandemic.

DUANE C. FERNANDEZ SR./HARDNOTTSPHOTOGRAPHY.COM

Celebrating at home

Allen said there are ways to celebrate Kwanzaa without a crowd.

“You can celebrate at home with family instead of out in public. At home you can talk about the principles, light the candles and do activities. You can send cards, do Zoom calls, live online social media and more,’’ she related.

There are no additional online Kwanzaa events scheduled to take place.

“We aren’t doing anything else, especially with the pandemic. Our museum is also small, and we can’t have a lot of people in there. We just provide information and gave suggestions on how people can celebrate,” said Allen.

Observing Kwanzaa is as important as ever.

Not religious, political

Kwanzaa is still relevant today and growing in some parts of the country.

Allen explained, “I think it is still growing depending on where you live. I met a lady in Deltona that didn’t know about our museum. She is from New York and couldn’t find anywhere to celebrate. She was going to Melbourne. Our event is always packed. People want to know about Kwanzaa.”

There are no similarities, comparisons or competition between Kwanzaa and Christmas.

“It has nothing to do with Christmas. People need to understand it. It’s not religious or political. This was created to fit us in this country as African Americans and tie us to African traditions of harvest celebrations. It was taken from different festivals and traditions in Africa. A celebration of family, community and culture,” Allen added.

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