Kwanzaa is a celebration designed to reflect on the ending year and prepare for the New Year through reflection and rededication to cultural unity. Professor Maulana Karenga created the observance and organized the ritualistic aspects of the weeklong event and put them into place 35 years ago. Each year several groups in Nashville host gatherings to participate in this uniquely African American holiday tradition.
At Vanderbilt University’s Bishop Joseph Johnson Black Cultural Center, their annual Pre-Kwanzaa Karamu and descriptive program was held on December 4. Lamar T. Wilson represented Alkebu-Lan Images, who provided books and Kwanzaa merchandise for purchase. Carolyn’s Kitchen catered the karamu (feast) meal. Once again, as he has done for decades, Kwame Lillard led the program for dozens in attendance, including students, faculty, staff, and friends of Vanderbilt, along with interested community persons.
Lillard is chairman of the African American Cultural Alliance (AACA), the group that also presents the African Street Festival each fall. He has been celebrating Kwanzaa since it’s inception and has been leading programs on the celebration at the Cultural Center since the 1980’s when Dr. Raymond Winbush was its director, the position currently held by Dr. Frank Dobson. Lillard is, without doubt, Nashville’s resident expert on the event.
Lillard involved the group in a lively exercise that adapted the traditional ‘Twelve Days of Christmas’ song to ‘The Seven Days of Kwanzaa’ as a vibrant experiential song and sign expression to delineate the similarities and differences between Christmas and Kwanzaa. In short, Christmas is a religious holiday that has been dominated by commercial gift giving, whereas Kwanzaa is a weeklong non-religious period revolving around community.
Seven principles, or the ‘Nguzo Saba’ are observed sequentially for the days following Christmas Day into New Years Day, as follows: Umoja (Unity) Dec 26; Kujichaulia (Self-determination) Dec. 27; Ujima (Collective work and responsibility) Dec 28; Ujamaa (Cooperative economics) Dec 29; Nia (Purpose) Dec 30; Kuumba (Creativity) Dec 31; and Imani (Faith) Jan. 1.
Upcoming Kwanzaa celebrations in Nashville
Several celebrations planned can be found on a Facebook page entitled Kwanzaa Nashville. The first is the 4th Annual Umoja ‘Kwanzaa in the Home’ at the Hall House from 6:30-9:30 pm. RSVP by e-mailing KwanzaaNashville@gmail.com or call 615-289-4350.
On Friday, Dec 27, the AACA 31st annual Community Kwanzaa Celebration will be held from 6-9 pm at St. Luke CME Church at 2008 28th Avenue North, near the Ted Rhodes Golf Course. The spotlight will be on new business and revitalizing Jefferson Street. The event is potluck, so be sure to bring a covered dish for the karamu feast.
On Saturday, Dec. 28 at 5 pm, the Nashville Uhuru Reunion Concert with special guests is at Carter-Lawrence Elementary School, 1118-12 Avenue South.
On Sunday, Dec. 29, Alkebu-Lan Images Bookstore will be hosting Ujamaa Business Network and Book Signing, a Kwanzaa program focused on community economic development, from 3-6 pm at the store at 28th Avenue North at Jefferson St./John Merritt Blvd. Author Edward Kindall will sign his book, A Walk Down Historic Jefferson Street. Call 615-321-4111 for more information.
All events are free and open to the public, but may request RSVP. See the Kwanzaa Nashville Facebook page for details on all events and updates.