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Kwanzaa Celebrations Shine Light On Community And Culture

For more than 50 years, the day after Christmas has marked the celebration of family, life and culture in the African American community.
Posted at 1:36 PM, Dec 26, 2022

Between the Christmas lights and the echoes of "Auld Lang Syne," there's a celebration of culture. 

Dancers at the Coyaba Theater in Washington, D.C., are rehearsing for a performance in honor of Kwanzaa. 

Kwanzaa is a seven-day celebration created in the 1960s during the civil rights movement and focuses on cultivating and appreciating the lives of African Americans, their past and present. 

Sylvia Soumah is the director at Coyaba Theater. For 15 years, performers have used dance to bring life to the seven principles of Kwanzaa. 

"It's about life and how one should really live their life," she said.

There are seven principles of Kwanzaa:

-Umoja, or unity

-Kujichagulia, or self determination 

-Ujima, or collective work and responsibility 

-Ujamaa, or cooperative economics (support of Black businesses and entrepreneurs)

-Nia, or purpose 

-Kuumba, or creativity 

-Imani, or faith 

SEE MORE: Why Are There Seven Candles For Kwanzaa?

"This year, our purpose is Imani — Faith," Soumah said. "So, how do we keep our faith? How do we keep going in spite of everything that's happening around us?" 

They aren't alone. In the past, those principles have been marked by world leaders and pop culture.

"My favorite, I have to tell you, is the one about self-determination: Kujichagulia," Vice President Kamala Harris said.

A typical Kwanzaa celebration could include dance, but also the wearing of Kente cloth, poetry, discussions about the day's principle and a meal.  

It also includes the lighting of the Kinara.

"You have a red candle that's for the struggle. The black candle is for the people of African descent and the green candle's for the land and the future," Soumah explained.

The celebration has picked up steam over the years, spreading to other countries and across the African diaspora.

"Kwanzaa makes you take a look at everyday life, everyday situations and show you the importance of being in the present," Soumah said.

It's a decades-old tradition with an international place in today's culture.

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