Caribbean community celebrates Kwanzaa

The Caribbean community in New York last Sunday began celebrating Kwanzaa, the seven-day celebration of African-American heritage and culture, which is observed each year from Dec.  26 to Jan. 1.

Brooklyn State Assembly Member Diana Richardson, the daughter of Aruban and St. Martin immigrants, noted that Kwanzaa, a Swahili word for “first fruits,” commemorates ancient African festivals of harvest and shared blessings. 

“The festival honors the ancestral roots of African American culture through family and community activities derived from traditions and practices found throughout Africa and its Diaspora,” said Richardson, who represents the 43rd Assembly District in Central Brooklyn. 

She said the holiday is observed by reflecting on each of the seven core principles that are rooted in pan-African culture: Unity (Umoja), Self-determination (Kujichagulia), Collective work and responsibility (Ujima), Cooperative Economics (Ujamaa), Purpose (Nia), Creativity (Kuumba) and Faith (Imani). 

“Kwanzaa is a time for families and communities to come together to remember the past and to celebrate African American culture,” Richardson said. “As those in our community prepare to light the first candle on the kinara, I would like to extend my warmest wishes for a joyous holiday. 

“As always, a reminder that in unity, there is strength,” added Richardson.

In his Kwanzaa message, Public Advocate Jumaane Williams said that “on the strength of great blessings, we can overcome great obstacles.

“And, as we continue to confront new and mounting challenges, we must be driven by Umoja, unity, in purpose and toward progress,” said the son of Grenadian immigrants. 

“Guided by the example and lifted by the legacy of our ancestors, we can and will persevere as we have in the past,” Williams affirmed. “Embracing the seven principles in our lives and our communities, let us reflect on the last year, and look to the next with hope and expectation.”

Assemblymember Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn, chair of the Brooklyn Democratic Party, noted that Kwanzaa was created in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga, a professor of Africana studies, “looking for ways to unite the community.”

The daughter of Haitian immigrants, who represents the 42nd Assembly District in Brooklyn, wishes the community “a Kwanzaa filled with light, joy and purpose.

“And may we celebrate togetherness even when we are separated by distance,” she said. 

Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke, the daughter of Jamaican immigrants, who represents the 9th Congressional District in Brooklyn, tweeted: “Habari Gani! To all those celebrating Kwanzaa this year, may this celebration of family, culture and community deliver light where it is most needed.”

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