Wednesday night in the Smith Student Center Ballroom, Black Action Society (BAS) put together their annual Pre-Kwanzaa event.
The evening consisted of the history of Kwanzaa, a reading of the seven principles, a candle lighting ceremony, a performance by the Balafon Dance Company and a soul food dinner.
Nate Endres welcomed the audience with some history of Kwanzaa.
“The name Kwanzaa derives from Matunda Ya Kwanzaa which means ‘first fruits’ in Swahili,” Endres said. “Each family celebrates Kwanzaa in their own way but each celebration often uses songs and dances, African drums, story telling, poetry reading and a large traditional meal.”
On each of the seven nights spanning from December 26 to January 1, families gather and light a candle. Each candle represented one of the seven principles.
“Kwanzaa has seven basic symbols which represent values and concepts reflective of African culture. They area a set of ideas created by Dr. Mualana Karenga,” Endres said.
The seven principles include Umoja, Kujichagulia, Ujima, Ujamaa, Nia, Kuumba and Imani which translate to unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith.
Karenga created Kwanzaa in 1966.
“The 1960s brought forth a new-found awareness of self-strength and empowerment for African Americans. Abandoning negative self-images and embracing our African past were one of the first steps in this new way of people looking at themselves,” Endres said.
“Its concept is neither religious nor political, but it is rooted strongly in cultural awareness,” Endres said. Karenga meant for Kwanzaa to be a time to inherent spiritual quality, so Africans of all faiths can celebrate the holiday along with those that go alone with other faiths, such as Christmas. “This is not a substitute for Christmas but gifts may be exchanged. Gifts are given to reinforce personal growth and achievements that benefit the collective community.”
The first reader was Brittany Terry, a graduate student studying student affairs and higher education, who spoke about Umoja.
“The principle speaks to develop and sustain a sense of oneness,” Terry said. The principle involves mutual respect, justice, care and concern.
“It calls on us to stand in solidarity,” Terry said. She then read “A Poem of Unity,” which is traditionally read on the first night of Kwanzaa.
The second principle is Kajichagulia, which was created to represent self-determination for all those part of the African diaspora. Kajichagulia stands for defining, creating and speaking for ourselves.
Following the speakers, Balafon West African Dance Ensemble performed traditional high energy music and choreography. Balafon is a dance ensemble started in 1997 in Washington D.C. directed by Kadiatou Conte, a native of the Republic of Guinea.
“We are blessed to be here and come together with music, dress and food,” a performer said. The night concluded with dinner and a chance for the audience to come up to the stage and dance to the African music.