Originally created 12/26/96

Kwanzaa continues the spirit of the holidays



Christmas may be over, but for many families the spirit of the holiday season continues.

Thursday December 26 begins Kwanzaa, a seven-day celebration that runs through Jan. 1, promoting awareness of the African-American culture.

Created in 1966 by Maulana Ron Karenga, the celebration coincides with the African harvest when communities and families evaluated the year and made resolutions for the new one.

Those involved with Kwanzaa say it's a time of reflection and evaluation that leads to a stronger community.

"If you can celebrate your own culture, you can appreciate other cultures," said Willie Knox, a teacher at Butler High School and a touring speaker on multi-cultural issues.

"It's not a religious holiday for me, but it's a spiritual thing for me," she said. "It's got history wrapped in it. It's a way for people to learn."

Kwanzaa contains seven symbols or principles that are celebrated, and each symbol is highlighted and featured one per day during the week.

The symbols include: Umoja (unity), Kujichagulia (self-determination), Ujima (collective work), Ujamaa (cooperative economics), Nia (purpose), Kuumba (creativity) and Imani (faith).

More than 5 million people around the world and a growing number in the Augusta area celebrate Kwanzaa, Ms. Knox said.

"It has grown by leaps and bounds over the past 30 years because of the message of hope," she said.

Most of the celebrations are private affairs shared within the family, but there are several local events for those looking to celebrate with a large crowd.

Ms. Knox, who became involved in Kwanzaa in 1991, will be the keynote speaker at tonight's inaugural gala at the Lucy Craft Laney Museum of Black History from 7 to 9 p.m. The museum will also hold a fashion show Sunday from 4 to 6 p.m. Tickets to each event are $2.

For a fourth year, the Ambasa Gift Shop will host a dinner tonight from 7:30 to 11:30 p.m. at the Julian Smith Casino. The dinner will feature African food and music, craft vendors and a performance by drummers and dancers.

Tickets are available for $10 at Ambasa or can be purchased at the door.

Ali Allen, co-owner of Ambasa, said over the years more and more people have been buying Afro-centric items from his store for Kwanzaa gifts as the holiday gained popularity.

"It's getting bigger in scope as people become more enlightened," he said. "It's a cultural awareness."