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Celebrating KWANZAA

December 1, 2011 by  
Filed under Cover Story, Feature

by Kimberly Bailey-Tureaud

The Williams family celebrates Kwanzaa in their home each year. Pictured, left to right, are Yvette, Dominique, Alyse and Damone.

It is impossible to celebrate the holiday season without recognizing the ever-growing cultural resonance of Kwanzaa.

Created in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga, Kwanzaa is named for the Swahili word meaning “first,” signifying the first fruits of the harvest. It is designed to give black people an opportunity to pay tribute to their African heritage, while passing on cultural values reflective of those held by their ancestors.

Chaired by Yvette Williams, the Clark County Democratic Black Caucus has been holding a Kwanzaa gala in Las Vegas for the last four years. This year’s celebration will take place Dec. 30 at Texas Station.

“Our Kwanzaa gala will be a fun event for the whole family,” said Williams, “and we hope all come out to fellowship with us, and celebrate all that we are as black people.”

The holiday, which runs Dec. 26 through Jan. 1, is based on the recognition of seven principles (Nguzo Saba) that originate in the African harvest celebration, and are considered vital to building and maintaining strong black communities in America:

• Umoja (Unity): To strive for and to maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and race.

• Kujichagulia (Self-Determination): To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves, and speak for ourselves.

• Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility): To build and maintain our community together and make our brothers’ and sisters’ problems our problems, and to solve them together.

• Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics): To build and maintain our own stores, shops and other businesses and to profit from them together.

• Nia (Purpose): To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.

• Kuumba (Creativity): To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.

• Imani (Faith): To believe with all our heart in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders, and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.

The celebration is further illustrated by seven symbols: Mazao (The Crops); Mkeka (The Mat); Kinara (The Candle Holder); Muhindi (The Corn); Mishumaa Saba (The Seven Candles); Kikombe cha Umoja (The Unity Cup); and Zawadi (The Gifts).

“My family has been celebrating Kwanzaa in our home for years, and our children have grown up celebrating it,” said Williams. “Kwanzaa did not originate in Africa — it is an African-American holiday. The day after Christmas, we prepare our Kwanzaa table: first, with the traditional mat called the Mkeka, and then we place our three green candles (representing African the motherland), three red candles (representing the blood of our ancestors) and one black candle (representing the people) on the mat. Each day of Kwanzaa, we light a candle representing one of the principles for that day. The first day of the celebration, we greet each other and our friends with the Swahili words ‘Habari Gani,’ which means, ‘What is the News?’ Whatever principle we are honoring that day is what we respond with. We have each of our children research a black historian to share with the family, and we talk about their contribution to humanity. Also, we bring out our own … photos of relatives who are no longer with us, and reminisce about their lives.”

For additional information, contact Yvette Williams at


4 Responses to “Celebrating KWANZAA”
  1. Sandra Eddy says:

    The community looks forward to the CCDBC Kwaaza Celebration every year. It has become a big part of the Holiday Season. You chose my favorite photo of the Williams Family!

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