Kwanzaa Kick-off at Summit Lake celebrates culture, diversity, and community

By Kishaun King

What a way to start the observance of Kwanzaa on December 26th at Summit Lake Community Center with SWAG (Students With A Goal) hosted the first night. The night was filled with drum playing, arts and crafts, fellowship and “ASHEs”.

Drummers at the 2018 Summit Lake Kwanzaa event.

Ashe (pronounced ah-SHAY) is a West African term which the Yoruba of Nigeria conceive the power to make things happen and produce change. Kwanzaa is a week-long African-American experience that is celebrated in the United States and around the world starting December 26 through January 1. It recognizes the African heritage in African-American culture in a feast and gift giving. Kwanzaa beginnings were to instill racial pride and unity within the black community. Kwanzaa represents seven core principles which the first night starts with “Unity” (Umoja).

The other core principles that will be discussed during the week are Self-Determination (Kujichagulia), Collective Work and Responsibility (Ujima), Cooperative Economics (Ujamaa), Purpose (Nia), Creativity (Kuumba), and Faith (Imani). These seven principles can be used in our community to help us reach our goal and purpose. As a community, we can show support for one another, help uplift and beautify our community, and continue to keep traditions alive and have faith towards the future for our community to continue to grow.

Eric Nelson, Executive Director at SWAG, spoke on the philosophy and how the seven principles affect the community. Eric discussed the principal “Unity” (Umoja). Unity stands for the community coming together as one representing the family, community, nation, and race. In Africa, it is a common saying “I am We” or “I am because We Are.” This particular saying reflects the meaning of unity to Kwanzaa. Unity can play an important role in our community. As we continue to come together, we can accomplish so much more when we are working together.

Jasmine Falcolner, who is nine years old, attended the first night of Kwanzaa. She stated, “the experience of Kwanza was amazing and fun. It was a nice experience to be able to participate by making craftss and light the candles. I was not able to attend all the days of Kwanzaa,  however; I learned that if we come together; we can do more in the community.”

Kwanzaa event at Summit Lake on December 26, 2018

Each night a candle will be lit representing each principle. There are three red candles placed on the left, three green on the right and one black candle in the middle. The first candle, which is black, were lit representing “Unity.” It is placed in the center of the kinara. Other symbolic items were placed on the table to represent Kwanzaa such as the corn (Muhindi) and unity cup (Kikombe cha Umoja). These items are all placed on a mat (Mkeka).

Throughout the night, students participated in the celebration by reciting a poem about Unity, presenting a dramatic dance that demonstrated what the youth of Summit Lake are experiencing in today’s society, host of other duties and roles to make the night complete. SWAG put a different twist on the first night of Kwanzaa.  Christian Bates, Director of Swag, stated, “the Kwanzaa event was exuberant, a welcoming environment for all. The youth’s interpretation of Umoja (Unity) was a breath of fresh to the experience as well as cultivating for them.”

The Kwanzaa event at Summit Lake included performances by local students.

During this time, we as a whole community came together. There was a collaboration between young, old, educated, non-educated, white, black, Christian and Muslim neighbors who came together as a unit. A sense of unity was felt throughout the event. We were all on one accord.  Sandra King, a student in SWAG, stated, “first time attending Kwanzaa and it was so exciting to see everyone from many different cultures to come together and talk about Unity.” During the rest of the week, a core principle of Kwanzaa will be the focal point of the night.                

Banner flag at the 2018 Summit Lake Kwanzaa event.