MU enjoys the festivities and traditions of Kwanzaa

Katie Pryor

Arts & Culture Editor

With the end of the semester and the holiday season right around the corner, Millersville University has been taking time to have some holiday fun and blow off steam before finals week. On Dec. 1 at 7:30 p.m. in the Reighard Multipurpose Room, the NAACP College Chapter, Black Student Union and African Student Association at Millersville University hosted a Kwanzaa celebration.

NAACP College Chapter, BSU?and ASA hosted a Kwanzaa celebration in the SMC.
NAACP College Chapter, BSU?and ASA hosted a Kwanzaa celebration in the SMC.

Members of these associations, including Nanafflore Gebegnon, president of African Student Association, as well as Psychology professor and director of African-American Studies Dr. Rita Smith-Wade-El welcomed the guests of the celebration before giving guests a history lesson of the holiday.

Kwanzaa is a week long celebration created by Manulana Karenga in 1966 that lasts from Dec. 26 to Jan. 1. It is observed with traditions of feasting and gift giving. The word “Kwanzaa” is derived from a phrase in Swahili, “Ya kwanza,” which means “first fruits of the harvest.”

“Kwanzaa is not an African version of Christmas as some people have been led to believe, but is actually a combination of Thanksgiving and New Years,” Dr. Smith-Wade-El pointed out. “It also allows African-Americans celebrate and reconnect with their roots and culture.”

Dr. Rita Smith Wade-El lectured the audience about the importance and symbols of Kwanzaa.
Dr. Rita Smith Wade-El lectured the audience about the importance and symbols of Kwanzaa.

Kwanzaa also included some performances from guests and students. Guest performers Gerri Hoff and Coco performed traditional tribal music for the audience. Following them was Millersville University’s Essence Dance Team, who performed traditional African dance. To liven up the audience, they performed around to the different tables in the MPR, allowed the audience members to dance with them, and even taught them some of the dance moves. Gerri Hoff and Coco provided music for this performance as well.

Dr. Smith-Wade-El and members of the NAACP College Chapter, the Black Student Union and the African Student Association also educated the audiences about the different symbol of Kwanzaa and the importance of each of the seven days of Kwanzaa. The seven days of Kwanzaa symbolize the seven principles of African heritage, or “Nguzu Saba.”

Gerri Hoff and Coco performed a selection of traditional tribal pieces on vocals and drums.
Gerri Hoff and Coco performed a selection of traditional tribal pieces on vocals and drums.

The seven principles of Kwanzaa are Umoja (Unity), Kujuchagulia (Self-Determination), Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility), Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics), Nia (Purpose), Kuumba (Creativity), and Imani (Faith). Each of the seven days of Kwanzaa observes a specific principle of Kwanzaa.

Other common symbols of Kwanzaa, including the Kinara, or the candle holder, is a symbol of the African roots, and the seven candles, called Mishumma Saba, are symbolic of the Nguzo Saba. The “mazao,” the crops harvested for Kwanzaa, are symbolic of African harvest celebrations and of the rewards of productive and collective labor.

Following the presentation and lighting of the Mishumma, the guests were then presented a feast from the African Student Association. Guests enjoyed Jollof rice with African seasoned chicken, a dish of West African origin, as well as coconut candy for dessert.

Special thanks to the Michael Johnstone and Technical Operations, the African American Studies, the Frederick Douglass Black Culture Celebration and the President’s Commission on Diversity and Inclusion.