Kwanzaa Begins Saturday, Will Be Celebrated in Pasadena

The seven-day African American festival of Kwanzaa begins Saturday. 

This year’s Kwanzaa theme “Kwanzaa and the Well-Being of the World: Living and Uplifting the Seven Principles” “seeks to call rightful attentiveness to the immediate and urgent need to be actively concerned and caring about the well-being of the world,” Kwanzaa creator Maulana Karenga wrote in his annual founder’s message.

In Pasadena, a virtual celebration of Kwanzaa including music and stories will be streamed from 11 a.m.-noon Wednesday on the Facebook page of the Pasadena Public Library’s La Pintoresca Branch,

A child’s craft will be available for curbside pickup beginning Monday at the library at 1355 N. Raymond Ave.

Kwanzaa was created in 1966 by Karenga, now chair of Africana Studies at Cal State Long Beach, in what he called “an audacious act of self-determination.”

Karenga described Kwanzaa in the 2020 founder’s message as “a special season and celebration of our sacred and expansive selves as African people” and “a unique pan-African time of remembrance, reflection, reaffirmation, and recommitment.”

“It is a special and unique time to remember and honor our ancestors; to reflect on what it means to be African and human in the most expansive and meaningful sense; and to reaffirm the sacred beauty and goodness of ourselves and the rightfulness of our relentless struggle to be ourselves and free ourselves and contribute to an ever-expanding realm of freedom, justice and caring in the world,”  Karenga wrote.

Kwanzaa’s focus is the “Nguzo Saba,” the Seven Principles — Unity, Self-determination, Collective work and responsibility, Cooperative economics, Purpose, Creativity and Faith.

During the week, a candelabrum called a Kinara is lit, and ears of corn representing each child in the family are placed on a traditional straw mat.

African foods such as millet, spiced pepper balls and rice are often served. Some people fast during the holiday, and a feast is often held on its final night.

A flag with three bars — red for the struggle for freedom, black for unity and green for the future — is sometimes displayed during the holiday.

Kwanzaa is based on the theory of Kawaida, which espouses that social revolutionary change for Black America can be achieved by exposing Blacks to their cultural heritage.

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