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Kwanzaa: Celebrating More Than 7 Principles

Some people think of Kwanzaa as an alternative to Christmas, referring to it as Black Christmas. Karenga writes that Kwanzaa is not a religious holiday, but one that is cultural “with an inherent spiritual quality. Thus, Africans of all faiths can and do celebrate Kwanzaa.” This, Karenga says, includes Muslims, Christians, Black Hebrews, Jews, Buddhists, Baháʼí, and Hindus, as well as those who follow the ancient traditions of Maat, Yoruba, Ashanti, Dogon.

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A typical Kwanzaa altar features a mat, fruits and vegetables as well as a kinara, or candleholder and mishumaa saba, the seven candles representing the principles of Kwanzaa that are lit each day from December 26 to January 1. Photo courtesy of iStock.
A typical Kwanzaa altar features a mat, fruits and vegetables as well as a kinara, or candleholder and mishumaa saba, the seven candles representing the principles of Kwanzaa that are lit each day from December 26 to January 1. Photo courtesy of iStock.

By Tamara Shiloh

Millions of people worldwide participate in Kwanzaa, celebrated from December 26 to January 1. Modeled after traditional African harvest festivals, the name of this holiday was borrowed from the Swahili phrase matunda ya kwanza, meaning “first fruits.”

More than 2,000 languages are spoken in Africa. Swahili is one of its more unifying languages, spoken by millions on the continent.

Maulana Ndabezitha Karenga, activist and American professor of Africana studies, created the pan-African holiday. He did so as a way of uniting and empowering the Black community in the aftermath of the Watts Rebellion, or the Watts Riots, which broke out on Aug. 11, 1965, in Los Angeles.

Prompted by a Black man’s altercation with police, the riots lasted six days, leaving 34 dead, 1,032 injured. There were 4,000 arrests and more than 1,000 buildings destroyed, totaling $40 million in damages.

The first celebration was held in 1966. Seven children attended, each representing a letter in the word Kwanzaa, hence Karenga’s addition of the letter ‘a’ to the traditional Swahili spelling of kwanza.

Some people think of Kwanzaa as an alternative to Christmas, referring to it as Black Christmas. Karenga writes that Kwanzaa is not a religious holiday, but one that is cultural “with an inherent spiritual quality. Thus, Africans of all faiths can and do celebrate Kwanzaa.” This, Karenga says, includes Muslims, Christians, Black Hebrews, Jews, Buddhists, Baháʼí, and Hindus, as well as those who follow the ancient traditions of Maat, Yoruba, Ashanti, Dogon.

Kwanzaa, modeled after the first harvest celebrations in Africa, is rooted in African culture. However, people from all racial and ethnic backgrounds are welcome to join in the celebration of its principles.

Part of the tradition is gift-giving on the last day. Because the holiday is a celebration of spiritual qualities and not commercialization, handmade or educational gifts, such as books, puzzles, or culturally themed items, are encouraged.

Activities held throughout the week embrace five central values: ingathering, reverence, commemoration, recommitment, and celebration. From these, one of the seven principles, or nguzo saba, are celebrated each day: umoja (unity), kujichagulia (self-determination), ujima (collective work and responsibility), ujamaa (cooperative economics), nia (purpose), kuumba (creativity), and imani (faith).

The mishumaa saba (seven candles) are set in candleholder called a kinara. The candles boast the colors of the pan-African flag designed by Marcus Garvey: black for the people, red for the noble blood that unites all people of African ancestry, and green for the rich land of Africa. The lone black candle stands for unity. The three green candles represent the future, and three red candles represent the struggle out of slavery. Each night one candle on the Kinara is lit in honor of the day’s principle.

Although Kwanzaa is not widely celebrated in Africa, it is publicly acknowledged in the Caribbean as well as other cities where there are large numbers of descendants of Africans such as London, Paris, and Toronto. Such a prideful event honoring family, culture, and heritage should be reflected upon year-round.

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Activism

Friendship Christian Center Provides Tests, Vaccines to Thousands

FCCC has served thousands with lines forming an hour-and-a-half before opening to get tested and vaccinated with one of the three vaccines, boosters, and vaccines for children. Agee said it has been going at this pace for over a month, with the new Omicron variant surging.

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A lone forms outside the Friendship Christian Center on a recent, rainy cold day in Oakland. Photo courtesy of FCCC.
A lone forms outside the Friendship Christian Center on a recent, rainy cold day in Oakland. Photo courtesy of FCCC.

Friendship Christian Center Church (FCCC), pastored by Dr. Gerald Agee, is located at 1904 Adeline St. and is one of the dozens of Black churches across the state of California, who, in conjunction with the California Health Agencies and California Black Media, has stood on the front line, with the Black Press for over a year providing COVID-19 testing and vaccinations to minority communities.

FCCC has served thousands with lines forming an hour-and-a-half before opening to get tested and vaccinated with one of the three vaccines, boosters, and vaccines for children. Agee said it has been going at this pace for over a month, with the new Omicron variant surging.

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Activism

COMMENTARY: After Jan. 6, An MLK Day Deadline for Voting Rights and Democracy

This is a dangerous thing that goes beyond mere policy matters. First the Cruzes fall in line. Then the people. Republicans are not shy about what’s next. They want to own our democracy. And they’re willing to get it by going state by state to limit our voting rights and take away our votes.

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Emil Guillermo is a journalist and commentator. Listen to his show on YouTube, Facebook, or Twitter @emilamok at 2pm Pacific M-F. Or on www.amok.com
Emil Guillermo is a journalist and commentator. Listen to his show on YouTube, Facebook, or Twitter @emilamok at 2pm Pacific M-F. Or on www.amok.com

By Emil Guillermo

We all know the images of Jan. 6, 2021. Lawless rioters ransacking the Capitol. Police being tortured and beaten. Members of Congress hiding in fear in the House gallery. The gallows and a noose meant for former Vice President Mike Pence.

We all saw the video images one year after and astonishingly they did nothing to pull our nation together.

Nothing.

They simply confirmed the only thing everyone can agree on.

Our democracy’s in trouble. Real trouble.

We already sensed that after the Civil Rights battles of the 1960s such things as race, policing, and income inequality are still major issues in 2022.

But we’ve got trouble in a different key.

C Major. No sharps or flats. This trouble goes right to the core of our democracy. They’re coming after your vote.

That is, after all, what the Jan. 6 rioters were attempting when they tried to stop the certification of the election.

But now the GOP politicians who may have been behind the Jan. 6 rioters all along, are going legit.

The majority of Republicans, notably California’s Kevin McCarthy, continue to sing the fictional tune “The 2016 Election Was Stolen.”

As if in a song battle, the Democrats counter with the loud truth, “The Election Was Fair. Trump Lost.”

But enough people keep singing the lie as if it’s their battle hymn.

And now they are looking for the ultimate control of any election. Legally. In plain view.

Republicans are taking over or running for top election official posts in key states. State legislatures are proposing laws to limit absentee ballots, mail-in voting and other conveniences. They are putting up obstacles to make voting harder with the hopes of suppressing your vote.

This is why Biden spoke in Georgia this week, saying “I will not yield, I will not flinch in protecting voting rights.”

Let’s hope he’s serious, starting with new voting rights legislation to make election days federal holidays and require federal approval of any state and local election changes.

It may take changing the filibuster law to make sure Republicans can’t block any Democratic reforms, but it must be done. And done now.

That’s why even the family of Martin Luther King Jr. is calling for “no celebration” of MLK Day without the passage of voting rights legislation.

This is how Democrats are talking to Biden.

The Republicans’ post-Jan.6 strategy is simply Orwellian. Where truth and lies are indistinguishable. And Republicans loyal to Trump are dead set on forcing their lies on everyone.

Witness Sen. Ted Cruz last week caught in a moment of truth calling the Jan. 6 rioters “domestic terrorists.” But how quickly he recanted when called on the carpet by Fox’s Tucker Carlson, the Trump Confessor, for all the Republican congregants to see.

Like a loyal Trumper, Cruz knelt, confessed, and did his penance.

It used to be called hypocrisy. Now it’s just called Modern Day Republicanism.

This is a dangerous thing that goes beyond mere policy matters. First the Cruzes fall in line. Then the people. Republicans are not shy about what’s next. They want to own our democracy. And they’re willing to get it by going state by state to limit our voting rights and take away our votes.

That’s even worse than the Jan. 6 rioters’ wildest dreams.

Emil Guillermo is a journalist and commentator. Listen to his show on YouTube, Facebook, or Twitter @emilamok at 2pm Pacific M-F. Or on www.amok.com

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Activism

El Cerrito Hosts 33rd Annual Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Parade and Rally

The celebration is sponsored by its founders, St. Peter CME Church and the El Cerrito Branch of the NAACP, as well as the Human Relations Commission, and the West Contra Costa County Unified School District.

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“Keeping the Dream Alive - Embracing Our New Normals with Faith, Family, and Community,” is the theme for this year’s celebration.
“Keeping the Dream Alive - Embracing Our New Normals with Faith, Family, and Community,” is the theme for this year’s celebration.

By Clifford L. Williams

The City of El Cerrito invites all of its residents and surrounding cities in the Bay Area to join in its 33rd Annual Community Celebration honoring the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., on Monday, Jan. 17, 2022.

“Keeping the Dream Alive – Embracing Our New Normals with Faith, Family, and Community,” is the theme for this year’s celebration.

The celebration is sponsored by its founders, St. Peter CME Church and the El Cerrito Branch of the NAACP, as well as the Human Relations Commission, and the West Contra Costa County Unified School District.

Event chairperson, Patricia Durham said “this peaceful protest began in 1989 on the back streets of El Cerrito because of the City’s refusal to acknowledge King’s birthday as a federal holiday.

“Members of St. Peter Christian Methodist Episcopal Church (CME), the City’s only African-American church, and the El Cerrito Branch of the NAACP, in true Dr. King style, took to the streets. The City eventually came around and acknowledged the peaceful and powerful works of Dr. King.”

Durham added, “El Cerrito’s birthday celebration of MLK is one of the longest-standing parades and rallies in the Bay Area.”

Because of the global pandemic, this is the second year the city will have a car parade because of COVID-19 protocols. Participants will meet at 9 a.m. at the El Cerrito Del Norte BART station (in the parking lot of Key Boulevard & Knott Avenue). At 10 a.m., the parade will caravan down San Pablo Avenue to the El Cerrito Plaza BART station and at 11 a.m., the rally will begin. To ensure everyone enjoys the parade safely, all CDC guidelines will be enforced. Masks and social distancing are required.

“Keeping the dream alive even during a pandemic is a necessity,” said Durham. “We are fighting for our democracy and if the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s taught us that we need each other to embrace our new normals of survival.”

“The City is expecting more than 100 cars, so we encourage everyone to decorate your vehicles so that yours stands out the best,” noted Durham. “Entertainment will be provided by the Japanese American Citizen League, The Black Cowboy Association, Ujima Lodge #35, the Mardi Gras Gumbo Band, Mighty High Drill Team, Smooth Illusions Band, and El Cerrito’s Poet Laureate, Ms. Eevelyn Janean Mitchell, among other talents.”

The MC of this illustrious event will be Jeffery Wright, president of the El Cerrito Chamber of Commerce. The event’s keynote speaker is Diana Becton, the first female African American to be elected District Attorney in the history of Contra Costa County.

For more information, contact Patricia Durham at (510) 234-2518.

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