LIVINGSTON, NJ — Keith Hines, founder of The Livingston Committee for Diversity & Inclusion (LCDI), recently hosted a virtual Kwanzaa celebration for Livingston residents, during which he discussed the principles and symbolic foods of the holiday alongside committee members Vineeta Khanna, Dee Dee Pulver and special guest Kevin Chambers from Black Professionals of Langan Engineering.

Chambers, an African history and culture expert, helped illuminate various nuances of Kwanzaa. He explained that the holiday was created by scholar and activist Dr. Maulana Karenga in 1966 just after the Los Angeles race riots.

According to Chambers, Kwanzaa was born when Karenga, professor and chairman of Black Studies at California State University in Long Branch, sought to bring African Americans together with a celebration of harvest and unity.

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He explained that Karenga also wanted to “enhance the image of black culture and acknowledge our humanity and our contributions to the United States.” Kwanzaa is an African American holiday and is not celebrated in Africa, he added.

Speakers also discussed the seven days of Kwanzaa, which each feature one of the following principles:

  1. Umoja — Unity of family, community, nation and race
  2. Kujichagulia — Self-determination to speak, name, define and create for ourselves
  3. Ujima — Community members help one another
  4. Ujamaa — Build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses and to profit from them together.
  5. Nia — Working on developing community to restore our people to greatness
  6. Kuumba — Use creativity to beautify and benefit the community
  7. Imani — Faith in our people, parents, teachers, leaders and righteousness and victory of our struggle

During the ceremony, Hines displayed some traditional foods while Pulver and the others discussed the symbolism of these foods as follows:

  1. Black eyed peas represent good luck.
  2. Macaroni and cheese is a popular comfort food.
  3. Jerk chicken is part of the feast on the seventh day (which also features gathering with friends and family to enjoy dancing and music).
  4. Collard greens signify fortune.
  5. Jambalaya has West African, Spanish and French origins
  6. Fruits of the harvest, according to Chambers, represent the collective work of the tribes.

Chambers estimated that about 18 million people in the United States commemorate Kwanzaa, which he described as “a celebration of culture and sharing culture.”

Khanna observed that holidays in different cultures have a great deal in common, citing that many religions have harvest holidays.

Hines suggested that Livingston consider creating its own holiday and made plans to organize one called “Unity Day,” during which all residents and cultures will be recognized.

Residents can view the full Kwanzaa celebration any time on the LCDI Facebook page BY CLICKING HERE.

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