Dec. 30, 2003 – The public is invited to come together to celebrate the final day of Kwanzaa with a feast on Thursday beginning at 11 a.m. on the beach at John Brewers Bay. Focused on the Kwanzaa principle of Imani (Faith), the event will include a lighting ceremony, the breaking of bread, shared food, poetry and music.
According to Ikanyemi Blake, a member of the local Pan-African Support Group and co-owner of Ital Ase Botanicals & Wedding Services, Thursday's celebration will be less structured than earlier Kwanzaa events this season. "Thursday will simply be an attempt to bring the community together to celebrate the principle of faith," he said.
An African-American and Pan-African holiday celebrating family, community and culture, Kwanzaa is observed each year from Dec. 26 through Jan. 1. The holiday's origins are in the first harvest celebrations of Africa, which date back to ancient Egypt and Nubia.
The name Kwanzaa is derived from the phrase matunda ya kwanza, which means "first fruits" in Swahili, a widely spoken Pan-African language. Kwanzaa is a celebration of family, community and culture and is not intended to replace religious holiday observances.
This year's Kwanzaa festivities on St. Thomas began last Friday at the Wesleyan Methodist Educational Complex, where about a hundred people gathered for an Umoja ceremony celebrating the first Kwanzaa principle, Unity. The following night, at Charlotte Amalie High School, the Pan-African Support Group held a Kujichagulia (Self-Determination) celebration featuring an African marketplace.
The third principle of Kwanzaa, Ujima (Working Together), was celebrated Sunday at Enid M. Baa Library with drumming, arts and crafts and various speakers.
In addition, Ital Ase has held daily Kwanzaa gatherings for discussion of the days' guiding principles and lighting of the kinara, or Kwanzaa candelabra. The kinara holds seven candles, one for each of Kwanzaa's seven principles:
Ujima (Working Together)
Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics)
Collectively, the seven principles are referred to as the Nguzo Saba.
For Kuumba Leba Ola-Niyi, an art teacher at Addelita Cancryn Junior High School, the weeklong observance is about "embracing African values and defining one's lifestyle according to Kwanzaa's guiding principles." According to Ola-Niyi, Kwanzaa has been celebrated on the islands since the early 1970s.
The observance was founded in 1966 in California by Maulana Karenga, professor and chair of the Black Studies Department at California State University, Long Beach. For more information about the significance and celebrations of Kwanzaa, see the Afro-American Almanac and The Official Kwanzaa Web Site.
Having observed Kwanzaa on St. Thomas for more than 10 years now, Blake is happy to report that awareness about the celebration seems to be growing each year. "More organizations are becoming involved, there's more media awareness, and the Rastafari community has really stepped up its involvement this year," he said.
"This is really about community and bringing people together," Blake said, encouraging everyone to stop by Thursday's celebration at Brewers Bay. Those planning to do so are encouraged to bring a food dish to share.
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