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Local group continues tradition of celebrating Kwanzaa

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It’s been 53 years since a professor in California, Maulana Karenga, created Kwanzaa. The weeklong celebration was originally meant to help bring Black people together following the 1965 Watts Riots in Los Angeles and has since become a staple of the holidays for many Black Americans.

Kwanzaa is observed formally from Dec. 26 to Jan. 1. It’s a way to honor African heritage and usually ends with a meal and gifts.

The seven principles of Kwanzaa, though, are supposed to observed year-round.

Those principles are:

• Umoja (Unity): to strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation and race.

• Kujichagulia (Self-determination): to be responsible for ourselves and create your own destiny.

• Ujima (Collective work and responsibility): to build and maintain your community together.

• Ujamaa (Collective economics): to build, maintain and support our own stores, establishments and businesses.

• Nia (Purpose): to restore African-American people to their traditional greatness.

• Kuumba (Creativity): using creativity and imagination to make your communities better than what you inherited.

• Imani (Faith): believing in our people, families, educators, leaders and the righteousness of the African-American struggle.

The Indianapolis Kwanzaa Committee has been hosting a Kwanzaa celebration since the 1970s. It’s been at Indianapolis Public Library for the last few years, in collaboration with the Center for Black Literature and Culture (CBLC).

Nichelle M. Hayes, who manages the CBLC and is a member of the Indianapolis Kwanzaa Committee, said the Kwanzaa Umoja Village Festival is good for both those who have been steeped in the Kwanzaa traditions their whole life, as well as those who don’t know what Kwanzaa is but are curious to learn.

The free event is 5:30-9 p.m. Dec. 26 at Central Library, 40 E. St. Clair St.

There will be singing, African dancers, crafts for children, food, vendors and a workshop so people can learn more about Kwanzaa.

Hayes said one of the committee’s goals is that people can leave the event knowing how to celebrate Kwanzaa on their own if they want.

“You can be as ornate or barebones as you want,” she said. “… Or you can do everything with lighting candles and having corn laid out and the big feast at the end.”

Hayes, who said her favorite Kwanzaa tenet is faith, or Imani, wants those who celebrate Kwanzaa to understand it’s a commitment that lasts longer than just one week.

“Kwanzaa is important because you live the tenants of Kwanzaa throughout the year,” she said. “The time of Kwanzaa is really to reflect on what you’ve done and move forward.”

Contact staff writer Tyler Fenwick at 317-762-7853. Follow him on Twitter @Ty_Fenwick.


The Indianapolis Kwanzaa Committee has been hosting a Kwanzaa celebration since the 1970s. The event features singing, dancing, food, a workshop and more.

• When: 5:30-9 p.m. Dec. 26

• Where: Central Library, 40 E. St. Clair St.

• Cost: Free

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