Kwanzaa Celebrations Underway

With Christmas come and gone and the New Years still days away, you may think holiday celebrations have stopped. You're wrong. Many African Americans in our community are observing Kwanzaa, which is the Swahili word for "first fruits". From December 26th until New Years Day people take time to reflect on issues like faith, creativity and unity.

Judy Whitfield andSandra Edwards know first hand how Kwanzaa can bring people together. After all they met at a celebration 10 years ago and have been close friends ever since.

"It affords an opportunity for people to come together a certain type of year and celebrate, rejoice, rejuvenate and kind of focus on what you want to do for the upcoming year," said Edwards.

Traditional symbols of Kwanzaa include fruits, a unity cup and a candleholder called a "kinara". In the "kinara" are seven candles each a symbol in itself.

Edwards said "You want to have your family and your close friends with you each night and you want to light the candle that represents that principle and you want to have discussion about that."

Judy Whitfield's favorite principle is "kujichagulia or self-determination. I believe that unless you are determined in yourself about who you are, what you stand for, what you want in your life and unless you stand that strong, nothing else matters."

Whitfield's community celebration of Kwanzaa started in churches but then moved out. She didn't want to confuse people into believing the observance has anything to do with politics or religion.

"I wanted it someplace that the entire community regardless of their faith whether they were Christian or not would feel welcome and I've seen that evolved and so many people coming together and understanding our differences and understanding those things we have in common," said Whitfield.

There will be a Kwanzaa Celebration Tuesday at the Isiah Fredericks Community Center in Gulfport at 7 p.m. Whitfield says she tries to change up the event every year and make it fresh. This year she's invited a historian on Turkey Creek, an author who'll talk about combining faith and finance and the cast of a short film.