Lead Story West Edition

L.A.’s African-American community celebrates Kwanzaa

LEIMERT PARK — Vendors lined up to market their products. Youths danced to the rhythmic beats of drums being played. Local law enforcement mingled with those coming down to the festivities.

The seven days of Kwanzaa kicked off with a parade and gathering Dec. 26.

Umoja, which means unity, was the theme that rocked the daylong celebration that was preceded by a short-distant parade that began on Adams and Crenshaw boulevards before it wound its way to Leimert Park.

The seven principles of Kwanzaa are Umoja, Kujichagulia (self-determination), Ujima (working together), Ujamaa (supporting each other), Nia (purpose), Kuumba (creativity), and Imani (faith) will be spread in different ways throughout the city of Los Angeles with various events.

A children’s Kwanzaa workshop (Dec. 30) and the 52nd annual Kwanzaa Karamu (Dec. 31) are among the activities taking place during this festive time leading up to the new year.

The celebration of Kwanzaa, which highlights African American and African cultures, is important to keep alive, said Rasheeda El-Amin.

A family group takes part in the Kwanzaa Parade that launched the 52nd annual Kwanzaa celebration in South Los Angeles Dec. 26. The parade began at Adams and Crenshaw boulevards and went south on Crenshaw to Leimert Park. (Photo by Dennis J. Freeman)

“I started celebrating this when my son was a little boy,” El-Amin said. “I wanted him to have an alternative, something black, rather than the other stuff. That’s why I started. It’s so important for me to have something to celebrate consistent with my culture and my consciousness. That’s why it’s so important to me.”

At the beginning of the celebration, the turnout numbers were not what they have been in the past. El-Amin said a combination of several things has taken the thunder away from the annual Kwanzaa celebration.

“In the years when my son was little, it was huge,” El-Amin said. “Our people go in and out, money is funny, a lot of things have been happening. I just think that it’s just the way things go, ebb and flow. No matter what, we have to keep going.”

Charles Brister from 1-800-UNITE US said the celebration is needed for the black community.

“Kwanzaa is very important because it celebrates our history and our culture and our future,” Brister said. “You talk about unity, umoja, the law of economics, self-determination … there are seven principles altogether and if we follow these principles just some of the time, we’d be better off. It’s a wonderful thing.

“We learn our history and culture. It brings us black people together in a positive sense. It’s just wonderful.”