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Mayor De Blasio joins Kwanzaa celebrations

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Moses Kuwema

New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio and First Lady Chirlane McCray on Saturday evening joined a handful of people that braved the winter cold to mark the first celebrations of Kwanzaa night at City Hall Park.

Kwanzaa celebrations date back to the 1960s during the height of the Black freedom movement in Los Angeles, when Maulana Karenga designed a Black holiday, Kwanzaa, that was modeled after West African harvest festivals on the African continent and used Swahili words and phrases.

Every day a candle is lit to celebrate one of the seven principles, or Nguzo Saba, over the course of the cultural holiday, which runs from December 26 to January 1 and hits its crescendo with a feast, or karamu. 

“Habari gani” or “What is the news?” is a standard Kwanzaa greeting and the answer is the principle of the day.  

"This is a really beautiful moment for all of us. My first Kwanzaa experience was in 1991 when I met my wife. Her family took time to explain what Kwanzaa was all about. The values of Kwanzaa are so powerful and necessary. They stuck with me," Mayor De Blasio said. 

"Over the next seven days we gonna keep celebrating. We should make the whole city feel the spirit of Kwanzaa so that everyone can feel it is precious. This is a holiday full of truth. It helps to restore so much that was tried to be taken away from people of African descent. It is a good challenge for New York to celebrate Kwanzaa every year. Let this be the first beginning." 

"Kwanzaa calls on us to remember the power of unity, community and common purpose. I can't think of a more appropriate year to celebrate those values than 2020. To all of our neighbors beginning their celebration tonight, @NYCFirstLady and I wish you a Happy #Kwanzaa," Mayor De Blasio later tweeted. 

And First lady McCray started her speech by observing a moment of silence for the departed ancestors including all those who died in 2020.

"This is much more than a holiday. The seven principles are our guide for our lives, our values, our families, and our community. We had our struggles this year and how did we get through? With unity, together by caring for each other. That is how we will move forward with unity, with the spirit of umoja. We are starting this new tradition here in city hall park," First Lady McCray said.

Nguzo Saba: The Seven Principles 

The Nguzo Saba (the seven principles) and their meanings are listed below in their original wording from 1966. Posters of the seven principles are often on display for Kwanzaa, alongside other trimmings. Umoja is celebrated on December 26, Kujichagulia on December 27 and so on until the end of the holiday on January 1.

Umoja (Unity)
To strive for and maintain unity in family, community, nation, and race.

Kujichagulia (Self-Determination)
To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves and speak for ourselves.

Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility)
To build and maintain our community together and make our brother’s and sister’s problems our problems and to solve them together.

Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics)
To build and maintain our own stores, shops and other businesses and to profit from them together.

Nia (Purpose)
To make out collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.

Kuumba (Creativity)
To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.

Imani (Faith)
To believe with all our heart in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.

Kwanzaa Symbols
Kinara — Candleholder
Represents Black people’s connection to the African continent.

Mishumaa Saba — Seven Candles
Represent the principles or values Black people should live by.

Muhindi — Corn
Represents the future or children.

Mazao — Crops
Represent African harvest celebrations.

Mkeka — Mat
Represents tradition and history.

Kikombe Cha Umoja — Unity Cup
Represents togetherness, both the principle and practice.

Zawadi — Gifts
Represent the sacrifice and bond of parents and their children’s achievements.

Bendera — The Liberation Flag
Represents Black people around the world, the struggle for freedom and a prosperous future.

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