Rochester Kwanzaa observers hope the celebrations will unite the community amid a pandemic


ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Tomorrow marks the start of the Kwanzaa holiday. It is a week-long celebration that honors African Heritage in African -American and Pan African cultures.

Kwanzaa’s seven days of celebration comes with a dedication to seven principles.

  1. Umoja (Unity): maintaining unity as a family, community, and race of people.
  2. Kujichagulia (Self-Determination): defining, naming, creating, and speaking for ourselves.
  3. Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility): building and maintaining our community—solving problems together.
  4. Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics: building and maintaining retail stores and other businesses and to profit from these ventures.
  5. Nia (Purpose): work collectively to build communities that will restore the greatness of African people.
  6. Kuumba (Creativity): to find new, innovative ways to leave communities of African descent in more beautiful and beneficial ways than the community inherited.
  7. Imani (Faith): the belief in God, family, heritage, leaders, and others that will leave to the victory of Africans around the world.

For Jeanell Coleman-Grimes, the principle of Kujichagulia is paramount for her and her family.

“I think we’ve been able to see with the tense climate in 2020 that our people have really been determined to redefine who we are. Reintroduce ourselves to the world correctly this time,” said Coleman-Grimes, Kwanzaa observer. 

Kwanzaa was first observed to celebrate African culture more than 50 years ago. It is based on the African harvest festival traditions from various parts of the continent. Observers hope the Kwanzaa celebration works to continue to unite the community .

“Unfortunately, COVID hit the black community harder than any other.  The recent protest proves that we need each other and that we are greater together. This Kwanzaa holiday we must reflect upon the seven principles of Kwanzaa and recognize that we were able to embody them all while still facing a global pandemic,” said Cynshei Wilson, Kwanzaa observer.  “In the new year I hope that we continue to flaunt our greatness. Continue to show up and show out for one another. Continue to have faith in ourselves and each other.”

“One of my favorite principles of Kwanzaa is Imani and that means faith. Eighth 2020 has been a tumultuous year, and we need faith to endure,” said Jessica Lewis, Kwanzaa observer. “As we prepare for 2021 let us remember Nia which means purpose so that we can continue to strive and thrive.”

The seven principles not only reinforce the basic values of African culture but are used as guides to living life by.

“I’m going to reflect on my past year to take out the things that have hurt me, and take on the things that have helped me and carry those clearly into the New Year,” said Devin Anglin, Kwanzaa observer. “My hope is to take what I have learned over this past year and really transform it into power. No matter what that power may be. I want to create an abundance of resources that’ll help, both myself and my community at large.” 

Many celebrations will be virtual this year because of the pandemic. Kwanzaa continues through new years day and it culminates with a feast and gift giving.

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