The Bay Area today is marking the start of the seven-day celebration of Kwanzaa, an African-American tradition dating back to the 1960s that honors family, community and culture.
A free festival is planned at the Bay Area Discovery Museum at Fort Baker near Sausalito today to kick off the holiday, which continues through Jan. 1, museum spokeswoman Jennifer Caleshu said.
Each day of the holiday has a principle of Kwanzaa associated with it, and today's is "umoja," the Swahili word for "unity," Caleshu said.
Caleshu said the non-religious and non-political holiday is a great opportunity for "celebrating family and community."
As many as 1,500 visitors are expected to attend the kickoff today, which began at 9 a.m. and continues until 4 p.m.
There will be two performances by African Roots of Jazz, featuring jazz drummer E.W. Wainwright. The songs will trace the roots of African music from spirituals, gospel, and jazz to today's pop music, Caleshu said. The shows were scheduled for 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.
Also at the museum, participants can work on an art project using the thematic colors of Kwanzaa: red, black and green.
Caleshu said the Kwanzaa colors are influenced by African culture.
In San Francisco, Kwanzaa will be celebrated by the Village Project, a nonprofit youth resource group, and the Bayview-Hunters Point YMCA.
A slew of events will be held to mark each day of Kwanzaa, kicking off today at noon at City Hall with the Rev. Dr. Amos Brown, president of the San Francisco chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
Tonight at 7 p.m. at the West Bay Conference Center at 1290 Fillmore St., a performance will be held by rhythm and blues band Bernard Anderson & the Old School Band.
All San Francisco events are free and open to the community.
According to organizers, each separate celebration through Jan. 1 will begin with a spiritual ceremony, followed by food, entertainment and a lighting of one of the seven candles of the "kinara," or candleholder.
A full calendar of events is available at www.kwanzaasanfrancisco.com.
Here are some facts about the week-long holiday:
- Kwanzaa was created in 1966 by Maulana Karenga, now chair of California State University Long Beach's Department of Africana Studies, in what he called "an audacious act of self-determination."
- The name "Kwanzaa" comes from the Swahili phrase "matunda ya kwanza," which means "first fruits."
- Kwanzaa's focus is the "Nguzo Saba," or the Seven Principles—unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith.
- 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.
- A poll commissioned by the National Retail Federation and conducted by BIGresearch from Oct. 4 to Oct. 11 found that 2 percent of the 8,585 adults surveyed said they would celebrate Kwanzaa, compared to 90.5 percent who celebrate Christmas and 5.4 percent who celebrate Hanukkah.
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