Clayton libraries celebrate 7 days of Kwanzaa

By Curt Yeomans


The group was small in number, but the five children who attended the Kwanzaa program did get to learn the meaning of the Swahili word "jambo."

It means "hello."

The headquarters branch of the Clayton County Library System held a special program on Monday, the fourth day of Kwanzaa, entitled "Kwanzaa Time!" to celebrate, and educate children on, the seven-day holiday.

"We try to do a Kwanzaa program every year," said Bea Mengel, the youth services librarian at the headquarters branch. "Around the holidays, so many people are focused on Christmas, and the other holidays get pushed back, so we're trying to bring [Kwanzaa] back."

Kwanzaa is an annual black holiday observed Dec. 26-Jan. 1, designed to celebrate African heritage and themes, but a special focus is put on remembering the history of black people in America.

It was established in 1966 by Maulana Karenga, a professor of Africana Studies at California State University-Long Beach, at the time, according The Official Kwanzaa web site. There are seven principles of Kwanzaa, and a different theme is celebrated on each day of the celebration.

The seven principles, in order, are: Unity; self-determination; collective work and responsibility; cooperative economics; purpose; creativity, and faith.

There are also seven symbols associated with the holiday, including: Fruits, nuts and vegetables, which is also referred to as mazao; a place mat, called a mkeka; an ear of corn, called a vibunzi; seven candles, called the mishumaa saba; a candleholder, called a kinara; a unity cup, called a kikombe cha umoja, and hand made gifts, which are called zawadi.

Mengel started the Kwanzaa program on Monday by reading Synthia Saint James' book, "It's Kwanzaa Time!" to the children. The book contains several Swahili words in it. Swahili is the language used for the official terms of all things Kwanzaa.

The children then watched a video, in which they learned the three colors of Kwanzaa (black, red and green), and each has a specific meaning. Black is used to represent people of African descent. Red is incorporated to represent the history surrounding slavery and the struggles black people continue to face. Green represents Africa.

After the video ended, the children sang a song, in which they learned about the word "jambo," and then they made Kwanzaa cards. The cards had a kinara on the cover. The children were then given free range to address the card to whomever they chose.

"I drew a bird in mine because I saw a bird [Sunday] night," said Victoria Duncan, 3.

The small group of children who attended said they enjoyed the program and felt they learned a little bit about the holiday. "I like that we sang a song, and read a book and ... I liked everything pretty much," said Raphealla Duncan, 5, Victoria's older sister.

"I liked the song because we were dancing [in the chairs]," added Osioke Ojior, 4.


On the net:

Clayton County Library System: http://www.claytonpl.org/

The Official Kwanzaa web site: http://www.officialkwanzaawebsite.org/