Sorority to educate students on Kwanzaa traditions

Roberto Hodge, Multicultural Editor

Delta Sigma Theta sorority members will present the history and customs of Kwanzaa at 6:13 p.m. Wednesday in Lumpkin Auditorium.

Kwanzaa, a holiday based on African festivals, takes place every year from Dec. 26 to Jan. 1. The holiday is meant to represent seven principles for seven days and each day a candle is lit. Seven candles sit in a candelabrum: three red, three green and one black in the middle, which is lit on the first day.

Ashley Howard, a senior psychology major and Delta Sigma Theta member, said the event, officially called “Kwanzaa: Celebrating the First Fruits,” is a chapter event that celebrates the holiday and has been done on campus since the ‘90s. The holiday is always celebrated in December, but the women wanted to bring awareness to it because of African-American Heritage Month.

“Why not inform people of the only actual African-American holiday?” Howard said.

Howard said many African-Americans know of the holiday but choose not to celebrate it.

Howard said Kwanzaa, which was created by Maulana Karenga in 1966, focuses on seven principals for the seven candles, such as Umoja (unity), Kujichagulia (self-determination), Ujima (collective work and responsibility), Ujamaa (cooperative economics), Kuumba (creativity), Nia (purpose), and Imani (faith).

Howard said her family used to celebrate the holiday when she was younger, but she was unsure when she stopped celebrating it; she said she enjoyed the holiday because she truly felt a sense of unity among her family and culture when doing it.

Those who do celebrate Kwanzaa may also celebrate Christmas, which is what Howard did, and she said the two holidays are different especially when it comes to gift exchanges. For Christmas, she would get an uncertain amount of presents, but for Kwanzaa it is a set amount of gifts. On each day of Kwanzaa, a candle is lit, a single gift is given and people say one of the words for the day and its significance.

Howard said the goal for the event is to inform students on campus the basic principles of the holiday and its meaning to the culture.

“You learn all those principles at the end of your last year so you bring in the New Year with them,” Howard said.

Roberto Hodge can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].