Kwanzaa: An African-American Annual Celebration of Life and Culture

Holiday of Kwanzaa

During this holy season of diverse festivities, we had the pleasure and privilege to attend a cultural celebration of life, family, community, and cultural value systems: the African-American Annual Kwanzaa Celebration on December 26, 2018. This event took place at the Holy Trinity Cultural Arts Center on Woodland Avenue in Cleveland.

Kwanzaa is an African-American and pan-African holiday that celebrates family, community, and culture. Dr. Maulana Karenga, a professor of African-American studies, created the holiday in 1966. It is a seven-day cultural festival, celebrated from December 26th  until January 1st each year.

As described by Dr. Karenga, “Kwanzaa brings a cultural message which speaks to the best of what it means to be African American and human in the fullest sense.” He urges people to appreciate “…the integrity, beauty, and expansive meaning of the holiday and thus aid in our approaching it with the depth of thought, dignity, and sense of specialness it deserves.”

During the holiday, families and communities organize activities around the Nguzo Saba, (the Seven Principles): Umoja (Unity), Kujichagulia (Self-Determination), Unima (Collective Work and Responsibility), Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics), Nia (Purpose), Kuumba (Creativity), and Iman (Faith). Participants also celebrate the holiday with feasts (karamu), music, dance, poetry, stories, and a day dedicated to reflection and commitment to the Seven Principles and other central cultural values.

The Event Today

Beautiful voices sang songs of faith, hope, and liberty inside the big hall of the Center. Spiritual leaders sang and the audience responded to the powerful themes and melodies. Lift Every Voice and Sing (Words and Music, James Weldon Johnson): “Lift every voice and sing Till earth and heaven ring, Ring with the harmonies of Liberty; let our rejoicing rise High as the listening skies, Let it resound loud as the rolling sea. Sing a song full of faith that the dark past has taught us. Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us, Facing the rising sun of our new day begun; Let us march on till victory is won!”

Organization leaders and spiritual leaders also stated liberation litanies, saying, “brothers and sisters, let there be peace and unity among us! Let us stop fighting among ourselves. To build is to work; we will work to break the yoke of oppression over our people. We will continue this struggle”. The people responded: “Yes, let us not be an instrument of our own oppression, and unite on what we have in common. We will work to break the yoke of oppression, we will continue this struggle. In this way, the African Revolution will be alive and at work in the lives of our people. To be independent is to be free; we must seize the time, we have a beautiful history, we are an African people! We are an African people!”

After all, this event embodied the real meaning of hope, liberty, and justice with peace. This theme echoed in an eloquent statement by one of the leaders, “if there is no justice, then peace cannot be attained. Life without justice is void; the struggle will continue until justice prevails.” It was truly our pleasure to attend this event celebrating African-American culture and community values. It was nice to see people of all ages coming together and sharing in the joy of music. It was a lovely event to close the year.


By George Koussa,
Ethnic and Cultural Consultant
Arabic Translator-Interpreter
Margaret W. Wong & Associates, LLC
Cleveland, OH