LOS ANGELES – Los Angeles County has produced a free virtual event presenting the principles and practices of Kwanzaa. The family event features Baba the Storyteller, one of the few recognized U.S.-born practitioners of the ancient West African storytelling craft known as Jaliyaa, and the Aquarium Pacific Pals puppet Axl the Axolotl.
The nearly 25-minute event was produced by the Aquarium of the Pacific. [View the video above.]
County officials also announced the Robey Theatre Company’s virtual Kwanzaa celebration featuring musical and comedy performances. It can be seen on the award-winning, African American theatre arts organization’s YouTube page at https://youtu.be/5Ah_J1uteZ0. [View the video below.]
Kwanzaa began on Saturday, Dec. 26. This year’s theme, “Kwanzaa and the Well-Being of the World: Living and Uplifting the Seven Principles,” seeks “to call rightful attentiveness to the immediate and urgent need to be actively concerned and caring about the well-being of the world,” Kwanzaa creator Maulana Karenga wrote in his annual founder’s message.
Kwanzaa was created in 1966 by Karenga, now chair of Africana Studies at Cal State Long Beach, in what he called “an audacious act of self-determination.” Karenga described Kwanzaa in the 2020 founder’s message as “a special season and celebration of our sacred and expansive selves as African people” and “a unique pan-African time of remembrance, reflection, reaffirmation, and recommitment.”
“It is a special and unique time to remember and honor our ancestors; to reflect on what it means to be African and human in the most expansive and meaningful sense; and to reaffirm the sacred beauty and goodness of ourselves and the rightfulness of our relentless struggle to be ourselves and free ourselves and contribute to an ever-expanding realm of freedom, justice and caring in the world,” Karenga wrote.
Kwanzaa’s focus is the “Nguzo Saba,” the Seven Principles — Unity, Self-determination, Collective work and responsibility, Cooperative economics, Purpose, Creativity and Faith.
The seven symbols of Kwanzaa are the Kinara (candle holder), Mishumaa Saba (seven candles), Mkeka (mat), Mazao (crops), Muhindi (ears of corn), Kikombe Cha Umoja (a unity cup) and Zawadi (gifts).
During the week, a candelabrum called a Kinara is lit, and ears of corn representing each child in the family are placed on a traditional straw mat.
African foods such as millet, spiced pepper balls and rice are often served. Some people fast during the holiday, and a feast is often held on its final night.
A flag with three bars — red for the struggle for freedom, black for unity and green for the future — is sometimes displayed during the holiday.
Kwanzaa is based on the theory of Kawaida, which espouses that social revolutionary change for Black America can be achieved by exposing Blacks to their cultural heritage.