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 50 years ago. Each year several groups in Nashville host gatherings to participate in this uniquely African American holiday tradition. The official theme for Kwanzaa 2015 is “The Liberation & Restoration of An Oppressed People 50 Years Later.”
Originally conceived as a means for African Americans to identify with African culture and reaffirm familial and extended family values, the holiday has expanded since its beginning. But at its core Kwanzaa is about celebrating blackness, and the best way to do that is to buy Kwanzaa gifts and paraphernalia from black-owned businesses, such as Alkebu-Lan Images, near Tennessee State University on the corner of 28th and Jefferson Streets.
Kwanzaa celebrates what Karenga called the Nguzo Saba (originally Nguzu Saba—the seven principles of African Heritage), consisting of what he called “the best of African thought and practice in constant exchange with the world.”
These seven principles are observed sequentially for the days following Christmas Day into New Years Day, as follows: Umoja (Unity) Dec 26; Kujichagulia (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.
Kwanzaa celebrations in Nashville begin on Saturday, Dec. 26 at 6:30 pm with Umoja Night featuring Sankofa and Hayiya African Drun & Dance Companies at the Nashville School of the Arts, 1250 Foster Avenue, Nashville 37210; admission $10, $5 (seniors & children 6-12), ages 5 & under Free.
On Sunday, Dec 27, the AACA 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 event is potluck, so be sure to bring a covered dish for the Karamu (feast). On Monday, Dec. 28 the Watkins Park Community Center hosts the ASET Academy for Performing Arts, and a $5 donation is suggested for the program, which runs from 6-7 pm.
On Tuesday, Dec. 29, Alkebu-Lan Images Bookstore will be hosting a Ujamaa program focused on community economic development, from 7-9 pm at the store at 28th Avenue North at Jefferson St./John Merritt Blvd., Nashville 37208 Call 615-321-4111 for more information.
The Temple Church, 3810 Kings Lane, Nashville 37218, hosts the Nia program from 5-7 pm on Wednesday, Dec. 30. The Village Church, 301 Madison St., Madison, 37115, hosts the Kuumba program from 6:30-9:00 pm on Thursday, Dec. 31. The Kwanzaa Cypher Finale is at Napier Community Center, 73 Fairfield Ave., Nashville 37210 from 6:30-8:00 pm.
All events are free and open to the public, except on Saturday and Monday. See the Kwanzaa Nashville Facebook page, or email: KwanzaaNashville@gmail.com for details on all events and updates.