On Monday night, December 7, the SMC MPR was filled with Millersville students hoping to learn more about the holiday of Kwanzaa from the man who invented the celebration himself.
Dr. Maulana Karenga, who founded the African holiday of Kwanzaa, visited Millersville in order to give insight to the real meaning of the Nguzo Saba, the importance of family and community, and his personal struggle with racial obstacles in life.
The night began with Christopher Deans, the MU Black Student Union president, welcoming the honored guests and the students in attendance to the event. Dr. Karenga then introduced himself with a few words before Blessing Robinson led the attendees in singing the Black National Anthem.
After a welcome from Rian Reed, Millersville’s NAACP College Chapter president, the Imani Edu-tainers took the stage. They began with four drummers setting the mood with amazing beats. Then, a chorus of majestic singing came from offstage followed by dancers showcasing extraordinary moves. They danced both individually and in unison, all displaying pure energy and dedication.
A standing ovation showed the crowd’s appreciation for the cultural entertainment of the evening, followed by Wongal Heramo, the MU African Student Association president, formally introducing Dr. Maulana Karenga as the special guest speaker.
Dr. Karenga formed the African holiday of Kwanzaa in 1966, when it was first celebrated from December 26 to January 1. The tradition has made its way all throughout America. He said it was “a long and difficult struggle” to create such a holiday and that he “had to study before [he] did it.”
His struggles paid off, however, as Kwanzaa is widely celebrated as a cultural and communal commemoration of what it is to be African in America.
“It’s a time when we come together and give thanks for a bountiful harvest,” Dr. Karenga said, “It’s a celebration of creating, harvesting, and sharing good in the world.”
Dr. Karenga urged his audience to “be focused on being African and what that means in the world.” This man has seen the depths of America’s segregation and turmoil of race. He is proud of his heritage, and even in the roughest of times he never let go of his convictions and pride.
After his prolific speech, Dr. Karenga was presented an award from Millersville University.
The next event was the “Lifting Up the Lights that Last” ceremony in which seven Millersville students lit the seven candles that each represent one the of Nguzo Saba, which include unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith.
The candles are three colors, each representative of an important idea. “Black is for the black people,” Dr. Karenga explained, “People are always first.” The red candles are symbolic of the struggle Africans have faced. The green candles are hope for the future.
The evening was concluded with the Harambee, which is Swahili for “all pull together.” The audience stood and chanted together, then was offered an array of food.
The event certainly had a great impact on those in attendance. Steven Roberts, a junior Social Studies Education major, has been celebrating Kwanzaa for as long as he can remember. “I think it was a good learning experience for both those who know about the holiday and those who don’t, especially when coming from the creator of the holiday,” he said.
Roberts took a lot away from the speech, “I think that he reemphasized the importance of the Nguzo Saba as not only African principles but as human principles.”