The 50th anniversary of the celebration of Kwanzaa begins on Dec. 26, continuing to emphasize the importance of honoring the cultural heritage and traditional values of African-Americans.
The holiday lasts for seven days and is based off seven guiding principles: Umoja-unity, Kujichagulia-self-determination, Ujima-collective work and responsibility, Ujamaa-cooperative economics, Nia-purpose, Kuumba-creativity, and Imani-faith.
Many students and faculty at Hamilton also celebrated the holiday three weeks prior, in an event hosted by the Black and Latino Student Union (BLSU). Janika Beatty ’17 is one Hamilton student that has been celebrating Kwanzaa for her entire life, as the holiday has been important to her family even prior to her birth.
Some traditions that Beatty and her family partake in are lighting the Kinara, a candle holder, and each drinking from the Kikombe cha Umoja, a cup that symbolizes family and unity. As they light the candles, they come together to “talk about the guiding African principles of that specific day and how [they] saw [themselves] utilizing them in the past year, and how [they] hope to utilize them in the coming year.”
They also spend the sixth day of Kwanzaa preparing for a large feast called the Kwanzaa Karamu. Beatty’s favorite part is the ability to bond with her aunts and cousins during this time, exemplifying how truly important family and community is during the holiday.
Even so, for Beatty, Kwanzaa as a whole is “a connection to the West African roots that [her] family know very little about because of the diasporic nature of blackness.” She comments, “The celebration of Kwanzaa is particularly important for my family because of its relationship to black Nationalism and the necessity of black holidays to celebrate a connection to an African heritage.”