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Minister urges embrace of Kwanzaa during this holiday season

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An Indianapolis area minister and author says there’s no need for Christians to have Kwanzaa qualms, and urges them to embrace this holiday.

“As far as Kwanzaa infringing on Christmas, or being a Black Christmas, I have not heard that people’s Christmas celebration is being trampled on,” said Pastor James Anyike, of Scott United Methodist Church.

“We celebrate Christmas one week and New Year’s Eve the next week,” he said. “I don’t think anybody is doing anything to take away from Christmas.”

Instead, Anyike, author of African American Holidays: A Historical Research and Resource Guide to Cultural Celebrations, urges those in the Black church to look at commonalities between Kwanzaa and Christian values.

“Kwanzaa, from the Christian perspective, is doing good stewardship. Some families throughout the year don’t have conversations about values. Kwanzaa is a time to mention seven values. For us as families, we can come together and talk about values, to get together and discuss values as an African community and culture. It gets the year off on the right foot.”

In fact, if you’re celebrating Kwanzaa, you should go beyond the period of Dec. 26, 2014 to Jan. 1, 2015, he said.

“Kwanzaa is not meant to be celebrated, and then put on the shelf the rest of the year. The challenge is we’re in a Kwanzaa mindset 365 days a year.”

Never celebrated Kwanzaa before? Never fear! It’s fine to be a ‘Kwanzaa newbie’ he said.

“I love it, when a family comes to a Kwanzaa celebration for their first year.”

He encouraged families to be brave and just remember, it’s all about the values.

“The heart of it is the seven principles. Everything you do centers around these principles.”

However, Anyike warns, it’s possible for Kwanzaa celebrations to become a failure.

“Some alcohol company or other company, for example, Smirnoff, encouraged using their alcohol during Kwanzaa.”

Although there’s a ceremony where libations are poured into the Earth, Kwanzaa is not a time to be “bombed” or intoxicated, he said.

Another inappropriate example of a Kwanzaa celebration involves sending money to non-African or African-American companies, he said. “There’s the principle of economic self-determination,” he noted. That’s hard to celebrate with a Kinara, or candleholder, that’s made in China.”

Those interested can attend the Join the Indianapolis Kwanzaa Committee for its Annual Umoja Celebration, Friday, Dec. 26, 4-8 p.m. at James Russell Lowell Elementary School #51, 3426 Roosevelt Ave. The event is free and will feature several cultural vendors participating in the Afrikan Market Place. It’s open to all ages and will feature drumming and dancing with a special dance tribute, fashion, martial arts, spoken word and more.

Know the Kwanzaa principles & symbols

Need a refresher or introduction to the seven Kwanzaa principles and the holiday’s common symbols?

Following is your guide to Kwanzaa.

Umoja (principle of unity): To strive for and to maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and race.

Kujichagulia (principle of self-determination): To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves, and speak for ourselves.

Ujima (principle of collective work and responsibility): To build and maintain our community together and make our brothers’ and sisters’ problems our problems, and to solve them together.

Ujamaa (principle of cooperative economics): To build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses and to profit from them together.

Nia (principle of purpose): To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.

Kuumba (principle of creativity): To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.

Imani (principle of faith): To believe with all our hearts in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders, and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.

Kwanzaa Symbols

A decorative mat (Mkeka) on which other symbols are placed

Corn (Muhindi) and other crops

A candle holder (kinara) with seven candles (Mishumaa Saba)

A communal cup for pouring libation (Kikombe cha Umoja)

Gifts (Zawadi)

A poster of the seven principles

A black, red, and green flag

The symbols are meant to illustrate the meaning of the seven principles.

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