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Museums Celebrate Kwanzaa

As centers for multicultural learning, many museums around the country are hosting exhibits and special events to educate their visitors on the meaning behind Kwanzaa.

"Kwanzaa" is a Swahili word that means "First Fruits of the Harvest." Created in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga (after the upheaval of the Watts riots in Los Angeles), Kwanzaa is a celebration of African American culture and family.

The holiday begins on December 26 and culminates with a feast on December 31. Kwanzaa commemorates the seven principles or Nguzo Saba, one for each day of the celebration:

* Unity (Umoja) – (oo-MO-jah)
To strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and race.

* Self Determination (Kujichagulia) – (koo-gee-cha-goo-LEE-yah)
To define ourselves, name ourselves, create ourselves, and speak for ourselves.

* Collective Work and Responsibilty (Ujima) – (oo-GEE-mah)
To build and maintain our community together and make our brother’s and sister’s problems our problems, and to solve them together.

* Cooperative Economics (Ujamaa) – (oo-JAH-mah)
To build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses, and to profit from them together.

* Purpose (Nia) – (nee-YAH)
To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.

* Creativity (Kuumba) – (koo-OOM-bah)
To do always as much as we can, in the way that we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.

* Faith (Imani) – (ee-MAH-nee)
To believe with all our heart in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders, and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.

Each principle has a corresponding symbol: crops, placemat, candleholder, ear of corn, seven candles, unity cup, and personally made gifts.

The colors of Kwanzaa are black, red, and green. Black symbolizes the people, red for the blood spilled in the struggle, and green for the future.

The Black History Museum in Alexandria, VA recently hosted a program to educate visitors on the symbolism and meaning of Kwanzaa, which stresses reconnecting to yourself and each other.

Here are some of the upcoming events around the country:

* The American Museum of Natural History in New York City will host a Kwanzaa celebration on December 26, which will include a drumming call, a market place featuring traditional African crafts and fashions, and a special program for each of the seven principles.

* Throughout December at special times, The Children’s Museum of Denver is offering a program called “Celebrate Kwanzaa,” where children can use construction paper to create a special candle while learning the seven principles and symbols of Kwanzaa. The activity promotes cultural awareness, fine motor skills, literacy, speech and language.

* The DuSable Museum of African American History in Chicago is currently featuring “Kwanzaa: The Exhibition.” This annual exhibition highlights paintings, textiles, artifacts and sculptures representing the African Diaspora from the Museum’s permanent collection. A six-foot high Kinara (candle holder) and family vignette emphasizes the seven principles of Kwanzaa. The exhibition will be on view through January 3, 2005.

* The Sun Drummers of Urban African Ensemble will be performing at the Bay Area Discovery Museum in Sausalito, CA on Sunday, December 26. There will also be special mid-week appearances by Diane Ferlatte and youth hip-hop group, Diamond Dance Company. Throughout the week, the Museum’s program spaces will focus on the African continent as well as African-American traditions. A Kwanzaa altar will be on display throughout the week.

* The Polk Museum of Art in Lakeland, FL will also host a Kwanzaa program, featuring folk tales and art. Participants will have the opportunity to make African masks and jewelry in the museum's art workshop, and watch the Kuumba (Creativity) Dancers and Drummers from Tampa, back again this year by popular demand.

There are many more museums holding special Kwanzaa-related activities. Find one near you!


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