Black Student Union hosts Kwanzaa celebration

With an open palm, Amyah Montgomery laughs while playing dominoes at the Black Student Union's annual Kwanzaa event in the International Student Center on Sunday, Dec. 2, 2018. (Rowan Jones | Collegian Media Group)

The Black Student Union held a Kwanzaa celebration in the International Student Center on Sunday.

BSU holds a Kwanzaa celebration every year on the first Sunday in December and has been doing so for about 20 years.

Kemondre Taylor, senior in operations and supply chain management and the special programs director for the BSU, said all are welcome to participate in this annual celebration that is both fun and educational.

“It’s just a time for people to come out for fun [and] to learn more about the culture of Kwanzaa,” Taylor said.

Before the event began, people gradually trickled into the International Student Center and took part in listening to music, having conversation and playing card games.

The event itself began with Taylor giving a presentation on the history and different aspects of Kwanzaa. This was followed by Myra Gordon, former associate provost for diversity, speaking about the principles and symbols of Kwanzaa. The event ended with a buffet of food provided by the BSU executive board.

Kwanzaa is a relatively young holiday that was created in the wake of the Watts Riots by college professor and activist Maulana Karenga as a way for African Americans to reconnect with their African roots and bring community together. It was influenced by centuries-old harvest festivals of various African tribes.

The name itself comes from the Swahili term “matunda ya kwanza,” which means “first fruits of the harvest.”

At the core of Kwanzaa are seven symbols and seven principles that are believed to have been key to the establishment of African communities.

The seven principles are “umoja,” which means unity; “kujichagulia,” which means self-determination; “ujima,” which means collective work and responsibility; “ujamaa,” which means cooperative economics and extended family; ‘nia,’ which means purpose; “kuumba,” which means creativity, and “imani,” which means faith.

The seven symbols are the unity cup, the candleholder that represents ancestry, crops representing harvests, seven candles (one being lit each day of Kwanzaa), the mat which the different symbols are laid on, ears of corn and gifts that are given to children and are typically educational.

Also involved in the Kwanzaa celebration are the colors red, black and green. Red represents the blood lost in the fight for freedom, black represents the skin color of Africans and those of African descent and green represents land.

This event was a chance for some to learn about a different culture. Collin LaRocque, freshman in business administration, attended the event as part of a Cat Community class project.

“I thought it was really interesting because I didn’t know very much at all about Kwanzaa and so just getting to know about a different culture was really interesting for me,” LaRocque said.

For others, Kwanzaa is an opportunity to reconnect with their African roots.

“This is good for us to be able to come and to celebrate our culture,” Del’Sha Roberts, senior in biology and president of the BSU, said.