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Kwanzaa celebration offered in Valley for first time at the library

by Belinda Grant

“My mother was no Harriet Tubman, my father was no Martin Luther King” are lines from the poem, “Song for my mother, prayer for my father,” by Linda Goss. The poem was read by Douglas librarian Luise Ruff to start off the Kwanzaa celebration held at the Douglas County Public Library on Dec. 22.

Kenny Dalton and Gloria Bennett of Reno were the guest speakers at the event, and about 20 people attended to learn about Kwanzaa.

Dr. Maulana Karenga, chairman of the department of black studies at California State University, Long Beach, started the holiday in 1966. Kwanzaa starts on Dec. 26 and lasts seven days until Jan. 1.

“Dr. Karenga wanted the holiday to start after Christmas, so that everyone will have spent their money by then. That way, Kwanzaa could not be commercialized,” said Bennet.

Bennett has organized several large Kwanzaa celebrations in Reno, held at various schools and The Boys and Girls Club.

“It’s a big job. I didn’t have time to put together a large gathering this year, but I was glad to be invited down here to Gardnerville to tell everyone what Kwanzaa is about. It’s not a religious celebration, but a cultural celebration,” she said.

Kwanzaa is the celebration of the “first fruit” harvest. It is to give thanks for the harvest and is a beginning of what is to come in the next year. It is also for people to learn their African heritage.

Each day of the holiday, family and friends get together and greet each other with a Swahili greeting, “Habari Gani?” or “What’s the news?”

The answer is that day’s principle, of which there are seven, one for each day of the holiday. A table is laid with a flag of red, green and black, or as Bennett does, with a multicolored African cloth.

Seven symbolic symbols are laid on the table: “Mkeka,” a straw placement; “mazao,” an assortment of fruit; and the “kinara,” with seven candles, one to represent each day.

The candles, “mishumaa,” are three of red and three of green, with a black candle in the center. The black represents the people, the red is blood and people and the green is struggle and land.

Libations to honor ancestors are placed on the table in a bowl of juice along with a unity cup, “kikombe cha umoja.”

“Vibunzi,” ears of corn, represent the children in the household. If there are no children, then one ear of corn is placed on the table. Modest gifts, “zawadi,” and a book on Kwanzaa are also placed on the table.

The seven days of the holiday are spent preparing for the final feast, or “karumu,” held on Dec. 31. Permission for the celebration to start is given by the eldest person at the gathering.

Readings by Malcom X and Martin Luther King Jr. were read by Dalton at the library event.

“I just wanted to share these readings with people in my community. I consider Gardnerville and Carson, along with Reno, to be a part of my community,” he said.

“Kwanzaa is a reaffirming of our African values,” Bennett said.

At the close of the celebration, everyone was asked to enjoy refreshments and fruit and to talk with the guest speakers.

Seven Principle’s of Kwanzaa

1. “Umoja” – unity

2. “Kujichaguila” – self-determination

3. “Ujima” – collective work and responsibility

4. “Ujamaa” – cooperative economics

5. “Nia” – purpose

6. “Kuumba” – creativity

7. “Imani” – faith