Celebrating Umoja (Unity), the first principle of Kwanzaa, brought celebrants to Downtown Memphis on Thursday morning. (Photo: Karanja A. Ajanaku)

The 2019-20, week-long celebration of Kwanzaa unfolded with the embrace of the principle of Umoja (Unity) at the Auction Block in Downtown Memphis on Thursday (Dec. 26) morning.

Mild temperatures and an intermittent mist greeted the celebrants as they gathered in a circle before moving into the pouring of libations that recalled and honored ancestors — some famous and others more personal to the individuals.

The morning’s messages included the admonition to “get freed up” from the ongoing affects of slavery that obstruct the healthy — and natural — development of mind, body and spirit.

Kwanzaa circle (Photo: Karanja A. Ajanaku)

Started 53 years ago by Maulana Ndabezitha Karenga (formerly Ron Karenga), the annual celebration of African heritage in African-American culture now finds myriad expressions both private and public throughout the country and parts of the African diaspora.

In Memphis, the celebration of Kwanzaa dates back to the mid 70’s and the efforts of the Ajanaku African American Research Institute. From it’s low-key startup, momentum built under the supervision of the late Adjua Naantaanbuu, whose daughter, Dr. Kaia Naantaanbuu (Memphis Kwanzaa International, Inc.), carried the Kwanzaa torch forward until her passing two years ago.

This year, Mid-South Kwanzaa, Inc. continues its annual celebration of the cultural holiday, coordinating multiple group settings in which to observe the Nguzo Saba, the seven core principles of Kwanzaa and their “importance to family, community and culture.”

“Kwanzaa reaffirms our rootedness in African culture,” reads a Mid-South Kwanzaa media release distributed by Osupo Williams. “Kwanzaa reinforces the bonds between us as a people.”

Here is the remainder of the Mid-South Kwanzaa, Inc. schedule:

DAY 1: Umoja (Unity) Thu., Dec. 26

2 p.m. – Board of Education Auditorium. Sponsored by Shelby County Schools Shape, Orange Mound Progressive Club & Mid-South Kwanzaa, Inc.

7 p.m. –New Chicago Performing Arts Center, 1036 Firestone Ave. Sponsored by Dr. Carnita Amira Atwater and the Rev. Ronnie C. King.

DAY 2: Kujichagulia (Self-Determination) Fri., Dec. 27

10 a.m. – Orange Mound Senior Center, 2590 Park Ave.

Sponsored by Mid-South Kwanzaa, Inc.

DAY 3: Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility) Sat., Dec. 28

6 p.m. – Exum Towers, 3155 Sharpe.

Sponsored by Reuben and Lula Barnes.

DAY 4: Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics) Sun., Dec. 29

7 p.m. – Gifts of Life Ministries, 3381 Raleigh Millington Rd.

Sponsored by Rev. Dr. Andre E. Kohnson & Ekpe Abioto

DAY 5: Nia (Purpose) Mon., Dec. 30

10 a.m. – Josephine K. Lewis Senior Center, 1188 North Parkway.

Sponsored by Mid-South Kwanzaa, Inc.

7 p.m. – Lester Community Center, 317 Tillman.

Sponsored by Osupa Williams, Frances Barnes and Tillman-Binghampton CDC.

DAY 6: Kuumba (Creativity) Tue., Dec. 31

7 p.m. – Divine Fitness Studio, 4466 Elvis Presley Blvd.

Sponsored by Java Complex.

DAY 7: Imani (Faith) Wed., Jan. 1, 2019

3 p.m. – New Chicago Performing Arts Center, 1036 Firestone Ave. Sponsored by Mid-South Kwanzaa, Inc.

(For more information, contact Osupa Moon at 901-237-1705; email [email protected].)