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Kwanzaa: Connecting people of African descent to their communities and cultures

Posted at 12:45 PM, Dec 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-29 14:45:41-05

COLORADO SPRINGS — As we rebound from this pandemic, taking part in Holiday celebrations and traditions are now becoming more important than ever. So, Imagine not knowing much about your heritage, and instead having to search the pages of history, to get a sense of who you are.

Longtime Colorado Springs resident, Dr. Anthony P. Young says, for many African-Americans, the family tree is complicated. But, there's a holiday celebrated every year that works to connect people of African descent, to one another.

"Kwanzaa is a way for us to connect with our culture, and to reclaim, restore, and resurrect our history and culture as African descendant people," Dr. Young explained.

Kwanzaa, which was created in 1966 by professor of African Studies, Maulana Ndabezitha Karenga, is celebrated through feasts, music, and dance. The ceremonies focus on the seven principles of Kwanzaa, which include community, unity , and self determination, among others.

"Each night you commune with either your family or your broader community and you light a candle.," said Kelly Navies, a museum specialist of oral history, at the National Museum of African American History and Culture. "There's a setup with a table and a mat, that has different symbolic things on it, and you meditate on the meaning of those principles in different ways."

For years Dr. Young has helped the city of Colorado Springs, celebrate the meaning of the holiday, as the founder of the Citywide Kwanzaa Celebration.

"For years it was families coming together and it was for the purpose of restoring and rescuing African culture, in a way that we could have a holiday to celebrate ourselves," Young said.

This year, COVID has changed plans, but not the purpose of Kwanzaa. Dr. Young says instead of coming together, he's encouraging people who want to celebrate the holiday, to do something else.

"Do your own due diligence and understand what it is, this is not something to be entertained by, but this is something educational and cultural to participate in," he said.

Learning about the purpose of Kwanzaa is now more important than ever.

"We're entering a new year, and a lot of new things will be we will be confronted with and we want to move into that with a sense of strength and a strong foundation," Navies said.

Kwanzaa ends on January first, but is a year-round reminder, of the brilliance, strength, and perseverance that still exists, among a group that has suffered and survived through so much.

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