Founder of Kwanzaa to speak in Lynnwood

  • By Sharon Wootton / Special to The Herald
  • Thursday, November 25, 2004 9:00pm
  • LifeGo-See-Do

Imagine creating a seven-day holiday that could be celebrated by millions. Maulana Karenga has done just that.

In 1966, Karenga offered Kwanzaa as a non-religious African-American holiday that celebrates family, community and culture.

Now there’s a commemorative postage stamp.

The founding father, activist and professor in the Department of Black Studies at California State University, Long Beach will speak about Kwanzaa Tuesday in Lynnwood.

Performers from Seattle’s Sankofa Theatre add to the Kwanzaa celebration with “Maafa Experience,” an exploration of the legacy of the transatlantic slave trade route through music, poetry, dance, drumming, and drama.

Maafa, a Ki-Swahli word, means tragedy or calamity. Sankofa is a mythical African bird that flies forward while looking backward.

The performance honors the millions of Africans taken from the continent for commercial purposes, and turned into slaves, mostly in the southeastern United States.

But it also celebrates the resiliency of the human spirit.

In the mid-’60s, Karenga believed that there was no identifiable system of values and views to give Americans of African descent a meaningful interpretation of their lives or culture.

Karenga created Kwanzaa based on traditional African harvest celebrations to reaffirm the communitarian vision and values of the African culture.

Kwanzaa is based on the Nguzo Saba, the seven principles that celebrate and strengthen family and community.

The social principles are unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith. Kwanzaa provides a framework to examine one’s actions and place in the community.

“We must focus on standing worthy before out people and in the world,” Karenga said in the official Kwanzaa Web site.

“Because we live in an individualistic society, people put such emphasis on self-gratification and self-indulgence they do not see that there is a collective aspect to what we are about as a people.

“The need to root oneself in one’s culture, extract its models of excellence and possibility, and emulate them in our ongoing efforts to be the best of what it means to be African and human.”

Kwanzaa was not created as an alternative to religion or religious holidays but as a cultural common ground with spiritual qualities for African-Americans, Karenga said.

“Kwanzaa reinforces associated values of truth, justice, propriety, harmony, balance, reciprocity and order …

“It reminds us to hold to our ancient traditions as a people who are spiritually grounded, who respect our ancestors and elders, cherish and challenge our children, care for the vulnerable, relate rightfully to the environment and always seek to embrace the good.”

“Maafa Experience,”

6 p.m. Tuesday, Triton Union Building 202, Edmonds Community College, 20000 68th Ave. W., Lynnwood; free.

“Maafa Experience,”

6 p.m. Tuesday, Triton Union Building 202, Edmonds Community College, 20000 68th Ave. W., Lynnwood; free.

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