89.1 WEMU

First Day Of Kwanzaa To Be Celebrated Among Washtenaw County Residents

Dec 26, 2016

Kinara (Candelabra for Kwanzaa)
Credit Wikipedia Media Commons / wikipedia.org

African-Americans around the country, including right here in Washtenaw County, started celebrating Kwanzaa today.  This special time has many traditions and can impact the Black Lives Matter movement.


The holiday was first celebrated in 1966 to honor African heritage in the African-American community.  During the week of Kwanzaa, seven candle are lit, one each day, to represent seven principles to live by.  They include unity, self-determination, and purpose.

Ronald Woods is a professor of Africology and African-American studies at Eastern Michigan University.

"There will be some discussion of what that principle means for a community."

Professor Woods says most Kwanzaa celebrations in Washtenaw County are in private at home.  Some wear traditional African clothing and share fruit and libations.

African-Americans represent about 13% of the population in our county.  Woods added that some of those who observe the holiday could bring up discussions on the Black Lives Matter movement that has been very active in cities, such as Ypsilanti after racist graffiti was found at Eastern Michigan University.

"Surely, the possibility that things can flow out of that that will help us think more creatively and more introspectively about how we can knit ourselves together as a community of people and faiths and religions, et cetera, I think this will surely be an important of a possible outcome."

On the last day of Kwanzaa, faith is the principle.  Professor Woods explains what usually takes place.

"There will be a presentation of Zawadis, or gifts, to children.  These gifts are designed, primarily, to be less focused upon a kind of commercial gift and more focused upon a gift that may be either developed or crafted by a family member or someone else."

Kwanzaa ceremonies could also include drumming, readings of African history, and paying respect to ancestors.

Like 89.1 WEMU on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

— Jorge Avellan is a reporter for 89.1 WEMU News.  Contact him at 734.487.3363 or email him javellan@emich.edu