The annual seven-day celebration of Kwanzaa in Memphis will reflect the desire to continue with tradition while accounting for health and safety during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Mid-South Kwanzaa, Inc. will host events on three designated days, with those days serving to honor multiple Kwanzaa principles instead of the customary observance of one principle each day.
Celebrating African-American culture, Kwanzaa begins on Dec. 26 and ends on Jan. 1.
Historically each year, millions of African Americans gather with friends and family throughout Kwanzaa week to honor the holiday’s seven founding principles – unity (Umoja), self-determination (Kujichagulia), collective work and responsibility (Ujima), cooperative economics (Ujamaa), purpose (Nia), creativity (Kuumba) and faith (Imani).
Each day of Kwanzaa is dedicated to one of the seven principles, collectively known as the Nguzo Saba.
“We as African people adhere to this celebration,” said Osupa Moon, president of Mid-South Kwanzaa. “It is the first fruits of harvest. Kwanzaa is the vehicle by which we learn and pass on our culture and heritage about us to us.”
Forced to pivot last year because of the coronavirus pandemic, Mid-South Kwanzaa observed the celebration online and on the airwaves.
This year, the first day of Kwanzaa, which traditionally is the day to observe the principle of Umoja (unity), also will feature a celebration of the principle of Kujichagulia (self-determination).
Two observances are set for day one (December 26):
10 a.m. – Opening Libation Ceremony at the Auction Block (Main & Auction)
7 p.m. – New Chicago Performing Arts Center, 1036 Firestone Ave.
Day three (December 28) combines the celebration of the principles of Ujima (collective work and responsibility) and Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics). The observance is set for 7 p.m. at Providence A.M.E. Church, 384 Decatur St.
On day seven (January 1), which usually culminates with the celebration of Imani (faith), the principles of Nia (purpose) and Kuumba (creativity), also will be celebrated. The observance is set for 3 p.m. at the New Chicago Performing Arts Center.
“When we celebrate Kwanzaa, we celebrate our rich cultural heritage and achievements,” said Ekpe Abioto, a Memphis-based musician and Mid-South Kwanzaa board member.
“The Nguzo Saba, which means seven principles in Kiswahili, represents a value system that we should practice every day of our lives. If we did, there would be no crime in our community….
“Kwanzaa teaches us to love ourselves. It teaches Black on Black love. Our ancestors laid the foundation and our children need to know that they too can be great.”
Each day of activities will be live-streamed on Facebook, organizers said.
“Kwanzaa expounds on our history and the greatness of things we have done on earth,” said Moon.
“We host events all year round with this message. We should all know about our culture and about ourselves. All people are welcome to come out and participate in the celebration.”
(For more information, call 901-237-1705.)
Celebrate Kwanzaa with the Shelby County Commission’s Black Caucus
The Shelby County Board of Commissioners Black Caucus will host a celebration of Kwanzaa on Wednesday, Dec. 29, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., at Mahogany Memphis, 3092 Poplar Ave.
Attendees are asked to bring new or lightly used coats and sweaters to support SisterReach.
SisterReach was founded in October 2011. By self-description via its website, it is a grassroots 501(c)3 nonprofit that “supports the reproductive autonomy of women and teens of color, poor and rural women, LGBTQIA+ people and their families through the framework of Reproductive Justice.”