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Kwanzaa spotlights positive principles of living

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Tuesday, December 26, 2023   

Today marks the beginning of a holiday celebration with African roots.

The annual nonreligious observance of Kwanzaa means "first fruits of the harvest."

Maulana "Ron" Karenga, professor of Africana Studies at California State University-Long Beach and an activist, created Kwanzaa to address economic and racial unrest in America in the 1960s, and groups in Indiana have held community-focused Kwanzaa events for almost 45 years.

Nichelle Hayes, committee member for Indianapolis Kwanzaa, explained the observance is a chance to think about the entire year, not a year-end summary.

"It's not so much about commercial gifts as coming together, reflection, learning, understanding and community," Hayes outlined.

The seven days include readings, artistic performances and food, both to honor children with gifts and show respect and gratitude to ancestors. One candle is lit daily on a candleholder called the kinara, to represent each of the seven principles: unity, self-determination, collective works and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith.

Kwanzaa gatherings often include discussions on the principle of cooperative economics, investing and building generational wealth. In a National Retail Federation consumer spending report, nearly 92% of U.S. adults said they plan to spend money this year for December holidays, including Kwanzaa.

Hayes believes there are many ways to build economic stability. She also pointed out people of all faiths and races can observe the principles of Kwanzaa.

"It might be that you only celebrate at your home with your nuclear family," Hayes noted. "It might be that you come together with the people in your neighborhood or your broader community."

Estimates of how many people observe Kwanzaa range from 12-18 million worldwide. Hayes insists everyone is welcome to join the celebration.

The Indianapolis Kwanzaa organization holds an Umoja Village Celebration today at 16 Tech in Indianapolis, from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.


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