History of Kwanzaa: Week-long holiday now underway - KATC.com | Continuous News Coverage | Acadiana-Lafayette

History of Kwanzaa: Week-long holiday now underway

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Lafayette, LA -

The week-long celebration of Kwanzaa is underway all around the nation including in Acadiana.

Kwanza is the celebration of family, community, African culture, and African-American culture and history.  Pastor John Milton of Imani Temple in Lafayette is celebrating the holiday, a tradition that began nearly 50 years ago. 

"In 1965 Dr. Maulana Karenga developed an articulation of the black experience of value system, which he identified from studying African and African-centered people from around the world," Milton said. 

Seven principals were created called the Nguzo Saba, which in Swahili means the Seven Principles. Those principles are recognized during the holiday. These principals are umoja (unity), kujichagulia (self-determination), ujima (collective work and responsibility), ujamaa (cooperative economics), nia (purpose), kuumba (creativity) and imani (faith).

"In 1966, those principles evolved into the celebration of a holiday so it could bring observation to these not newly found valued systems, but reclaimed value systems," Milton said. 

Observers light a candle each day, celebrating the principles. However, the principles go beyond the week-long celebration. Milton says it's a reflection on how people should live year round. 

"I believe that Kwanzaa and the principals are the most valuable tools that we have available to help our young African-American people move on to the higher heights and be all that God has called them to be. It's that critical," Milton said. 

The colors of Kwanzaa are black, red and green. The Pan-African flag is on display along with other symbols of African culture and heritage.

"While Christmas is a religious holiday, Kwanzaa is not," Milton explained. "Even though we are a church at Imani Temple, we don't celebrate it (Kwanzaa) because of our religion. We celebrate it because of our culture. It's a cultural holiday, not a religious holiday. We at Imani Temple love to share this holiday with all people. Particularly people of African descent, but anybody else who wants to engage and understand more about our culture. " 

The holiday will last until New Year's day. A Kwanzaa celebration will be held at 6 p.m. on Saturday, Dec.30, at the Harambee Event Center on 211 E. Willow St., in Lafayette. 

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