The holiday was created in 1966 by Maulana Karenga, professor and chairman of Africana Studies at California State University.
Kwanzaa is defined by seven principles, explained by Elaina Mosely, director of Operation Unite Education and Cultural Arts Center in Hudson. "The language of Kwanzaa is Swahili, that universal language that's used in many of the African countries by people who speak three or four different languages. So Swahili was meant to unite people. The seven principles of Kwanzaa: day one is Umoja (unity); day 2 Kujichagulia (self-determination); day 3 Ukima (collective work and responsibility); day 4 Ujamaa (cooperative economics); Nia, day 5 (purpose); day 6 Kuumba (creativity) and day 7 Imani (faith)."
Seven Kwanzaa candles each represent one of the seven principles. Kwanzaa has been assimilated into the fabric of American society. Mosley says the celebration of heritage, open to individual family interpretation, transcends religion. "So if you wanna go back thousands of years and you see your heritage that way, and you say okay, well wow, you know my foks are of Asian descent from way back if you trace it that way, and you wanna bring that into your life now and share that with your family and your children, then that's what you do for Kwanzaa."
Kwanzaa begins on Thursday, December 26th and ends on Wednesday, January 1st. Janice Mwapaga is with the Capital Region Kwanzaa Coalition, which has planned a series of Kwanzaa events. "It's about the coming together of our people as we once were quite united because we hadd to be. Now I think we feel that we've got something going for ourselves and there's not as much of a need. So we've come together to reaffirm our faith in our culture and our people and to recognize our culture and our strength. And to celebrate that together. And that's mainly what Kwanzaa is all about."
Albany-area Kwanzaa Celebrations
6 to 9 p.m. Thursday, State Museum, Madison Avenue;
5 to 9 p.m. Friday, Albany Community Charter School, 42 S. Dove St.;
5 to 8 p.m. Saturday, African American Cultural Center, Madison Avenue and South Pearl Street;
3 to 6 p.m. Sunday, Arbor Hill Community Center, 47 Lark St.;
6 to 8 p.m. Monday, The Coliseum, 153 S. Pearl St.;
5 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Trinity Alliance, 15 Trinity Place;
2 to 6 p.m. Wednesday, The Book Club, 153 S. Pearl St.