Lead Story West Edition

Leimert Park to mark 50 years of Kwanzaa

LOS ANGELES — The 50th anniversary of Kwanzaa, the African cultural celebration that links the end of each year to the start of the next, will be marked Dec. 26 in Leimert Park with a block parade, heritage festival and candle lighting ceremony from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

The block parade will take place at 10 a.m. and the candle lighting is at noon. The event includes live music, a fashion show, community dances, crafts and a continuous drum circle. Attendees are welcome to bring their own instrument.

The festival is free of charge. It also includes a health pavilion and children’s village with face painting.

Kwanzaa, which is celebrated from Dec. 26 to Jan. 1., was founded in 1966 by Cal State Long Beach professor Maulana Karenga.

Its name is taken from the Swahili phrase, “matunda ya kwanza,” which means “first fruits,” as the holiday began as a way to mark the first harvest.

Kwanzaa is built on five principals: gathering together, expressing gratitude to the creator, acknowledging the past to learn from it and honor its role models, recommitment to African cultural ideals and celebrate all the good in life itself.

Maulana Karenga
Maulana Karenga

In 1966, Karenga, a professor of Africana Studies, founded the modern variation in the midst of the Black Freedom movement. The purpose was to reaffirm and restore roots in the African culture.

The seven candles, which are synonymous with the holiday, represent seven principals: unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics (establishing African-American owned businesses to build the community), purpose, creativity and faith.

On the official Kwanzaa website, Karenga says, “Kwanzaa brings a cultural message which speaks to the best of what it means to be African and human in the fullest sense.”

The celebration is “an ancient and living cultural tradition which reflects the best of African thought and practice in its reaffirmation of the dignity of the human person in community and culture, the well-being of family and community, the integrity of the environment and our kinship with it, and the rich resource and meaning of a people’s culture.”