INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Kwanzaa, a weeklong holiday typically celebrated in the black community, began more than 50 years ago and is often considered an alternative to Christmas.
The Indianapolis Kwanzaa Committee is helping keep the holiday tradition alive by holding special events. Coordinator Sibeko Jywanza said, “Kwanzaa is a celebration that really establishes connections with African roots.”
Kwanzaa celebrations can differ from family to family. But, the main themes and messages are the same.
“This celebration came about because of turmoil within the communities,” Jywanza said. “And making sure that we have certain principles that we can emphasize to make sure that we build up our communities.”
Maulana Karenga created the seven-day holiday in 1966 after the Watts LA riots. The seven candles on the kinara represent principles connected to African culture and building community: unity; self-determination; collective work and responsibility; cooperative economics; purpose; creativity; and faith.
Each day, one of the green, black or red candles on the kinara is lit.
“This is not just for African-Americans but for everybody in the community to learn more about black culture,” said Nichelle Hayes, leader for the Indianapolis Public Library’s Center for Black Literature & Culture.
Indianapolis Kwanzaa Committee representatives said holiday celebrations have a way of helping people better connect to their roots. “I think it’s a great way to cap off the year and a great way to start the new year,” Hayes said.
Kwanzaa can feature dancing, storytelling and poetry. On the final day, an exchange of gifts, often handmade, happens.