Students gather to honor African culture, heritage in Kwanzaa celebration

Kwanzaa candles

SaraBeth Davis

A Kwanzaa celebration, hosted by African-American Studies program, was held yesterday in the Honors College and International Center. 

Cassandra Little, who formerly worked as an associate professor in the communications department and is an accomplished activist, spoke and hosted the event.

“[Kwanzaa] was a way for us to try to reconnect and re-establish that we descended from kings and queens, that we descended from people that knew about astronomy, and math, and wonderful scientific achievements and that it wasn’t only in America as slaves that we were created,” Little said.

She talked through the different items and typical traditions that were part of Kwanzaa, going over each night of the holiday.

There were presentations from various people who then lit the candles on the Kinara. Each candle represents one of the seven principles of Kwanzaa. The center black candle represents the African people, the red candles marks their struggles and the green candles, their prosperity.

The first day is Umoja, which means unity. The candle for it, the center black one, was lit by Kymberley Wiley, president of the Caribbean Club.

Gianna Dowell of Delta Sigma Theta and her partner, Alex Williams, performed a piece on black women and presentation and androgyny in the black community. Dowell then lit the candle for Kujichagulia, self-determination.

Dowell, a senior from Evansville, was attending the event for the first time.

“It makes me happy to see us progressing as a community, all of us here from a diverse background.” Dowell said.

The third candle, Ujima, was lit by Whitney King, president of Amazing Tones of Joy. This candle represents collective work and responsibility. Amazing Tones of Joy, a choir, performed “How Great is Our God” before the candle was lit.

The fourth day is for Ujamaa, cooperative economics. This day’s candle was lit by Chanel Watkins from Zeta Phi Beta sorority. She spoke poetically on the concept, with drum accompaniment.

“After getting the success I have, I realized that I haven’t even helped my own people, so I feel honored to do this.” said Watkins.

The fifth candle was lit by Black Student Alliance President Ciara Futrell. This candle represented Nia, purpose.

The sixth day is New Years Eve. This night highlights Kuumba, creativity. It is generally one of the more lively nights. Student Eli Norwood had volunteers from the audience come up and participate in a drum circle with him, the audience clapping with them. Norwood then lit the candle.

The final night is for Imani, faith. Kapri Beck of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority and two people with her spoke on what faith meant to them.

“It’s having just complete trust in everything you do, within your community, with your friends, your relationships, your grades. Just have complete trust in everything, God will help and provide. Faith is trust,” Beck said.

The event concluded with people honoring their ancestors and heroes, and going around speaking their names to recognize them. Many spoke of family members: mothers, fathers and grandmothers, those who helped them become the people they are today.

Further Kwanzaa celebrations will be held at State Street Baptist Church in late December.