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Mid-South Kwanzaa, Inc. tweaks celebration with health in mind

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.”

Osupa Moon and Cookie Moon stand in front of a mantel bearing the kinara and the seven candles representing the seven principles (Nguzo Saba) of Kwanzaa. Each day a new candle is lit. (Photo: Tyrone P. Easley/The New Tri-State Defender Archives)

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.

The ceremonial use of an African drum helps revelers make the connection with their African heritage during a Kwanzaa celebration. Here, Dr. Carnita Amiri Atwater of the African American International Museum Foundation sets the tone. (Photo: Tyrone P. Easley/The New Tri-State Defender Archives)

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.”

On day two of the seven-day celebration of Kwanzaa 2018-19, the principle of Kujichagulia (self-determination) was accented by the drumming of Ekpe Abioto during the Mid-South Kwanzaa, Inc. observance at Nappi by Nature Hair Co., 1247 Southbrook Mall. The celebration was sponsored by Heritage Tours. (Photo: Tyrone P. Easley/The New Tri-State Defender Archives)

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

Candle lighting reinforces the meaning of the Nguzo Saba, the seven principles of Kwanzaa. Candles are placed in the kinara (holder). When observing Kwanzaa, the black candle symbolizes the people themselves, the three red candles are for the struggle or blood shed in the past, and the three green candles represent the Earth or the abundance of possibilities the future holds. Beginning December 26 with the black, a different candle is lit for each day, alternating from left to right.

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.”

 

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