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African descendants in Belize marking Kwanzaa week

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Posted: Monday, December 28, 2020. 2:34 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: The third of three significant December celebrations began this past Saturday, December 26.

For the next seven days, those of African descent, particularly in the United States, are observing Kwanzaa, a recent celebration established in 1966 as an African alternative to Christmas by professor Maulana Karenga.

COVID-19, according to executive in the Belize branch of the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), Louis Emerson Guild, has muted this year’s celebrations in Belize, which include the making of handmade toys for children. The holiday is usually observed by the UBAD Educational Foundation based on Partridge Street.

Today is the day of Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility): “To build and maintain our community together and make our brothers’ and sisters’ problems our problems and to solve them together.” It is one of the ‘seven principles’ under which Kwanzaa is observed, the others in order being: Umoja (Unity); Kujichagulia (Self-Determination); Ujamaa (Cooperative economics); Nia (Purpose); Kuumba (Creativity); and Imani (Faith).

Families celebrating Kwanzaa decorate their households with objects of art, colorful African cloth such as kente, especially the wearing of kaftans by women, and fresh fruits that represent African idealism. It is customary to include children in Kwanzaa ceremonies and to give respect and gratitude to ancestors. Libations are shared, generally with a common chalice, Kikombe cha Umoja, passed around to all celebrants. The holiday greeting is “Joyous Kwanzaa”.

A Kwanzaa ceremony may include drumming and musical selections, libations, a reading of the African Pledge and the Principles of Blackness, reflection on the Pan-African colors, a discussion of the African principle of the day or a chapter in African history, a candle-lighting ritual, artistic performance, and, finally, a feast of faith (Karamu Ya Imani). The greeting for each day of Kwanzaa is Habari Gani?, Swahili for “How are you?”, usually answered by the name of the principle being observed on that day. 

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