(Article originally published in the Garrett County Republican: Inaugural Kwanzaa Program in Garrett County)
Beginning Sunday, Dec. 26, the Garrett County NAACP Branch #7139 will host its inaugural Kwanzaa program.
This is the first of its kind in the county, and the branch plans to offer daily Facebook live video (@GarrettNAACP) for public viewing, as well as an interactive Zoom presentation for members.
The program will start with a main event Sunday, followed by short online video feeds through Jan. 1.
Kwanzaa is a non-religious, weeklong celebration of community, family, and culture. Kwanzaa focuses on seven core principles, known as the Nguzo Saba (Swahili for “seven principles”). These principles are Umoja (unity), Kujichagulia (self-determination), Ujima (collective work and responsibility), Ujamaa (cooperative economics), Nia (purpose), Kuumba (creativity), and Imani (faith).
Founded by Dr. Maulana Karenga in 1966, Kwanzaa is a harvest festival whose name is derived from the Swahili phrase “matunda ya kwanza” (the first fruits of the harvest). Kwanzaa is a celebration of African heritage and culture, observed from Dec. 26 through Jan. 1. All of the principles and items utilized for Kwanzaa have special meaning. (For instance, Kwanzaa is spelled with an extra “a” in order to symbolically represent the seven principles via seven letters.)
Though Kwanzaa is rooted in the honoring of African-American/Pan-African cultural heritage and traditional values, the annual festivities are open to everyone. People of all races and ethnicities are invited to celebrate Kwanzaa.
A special candleholder called the Kinara is used. It holds seven candles, each one representing a day and principle. Each night a candle is lit (with one black candle in the center, three red candles to the left, and three green candles to the right). A Kwanzaa ceremony typically includes Kinara candle lighting, music, storytelling, artistic performance, feasting, and discussion of the principle of the day.
GCNAACP kicks off the festivities at 7 p.m. Sunday. On the first night, there will be a candle-lighting ceremony, interactive Kahoot! game, and Kwanzaa dancing.
On the following nights, there will be the daily candle lighting and discussion of that day’s core principle. Several Kinara candleholders have been crafted by local artisans. The Kwanzaa program organizers want to offer an authentic experience, and part of the tradition is to source as many items locally as possible. From ears of corn to handmade candles, GCNAACP has gathered elements that represent the resourcefulness of Garrett County.
Kwanzaa will usher GCNAACP into a new year of guest speakers, events, and activities.
The Garrett County NAACP Branch formed in 2021 with the help of more than 100 people. It is the last county to officially form an NAACP chapter in Maryland.
The county’s first Kwanzaa celebration will be dedicated to the memory of one of the chapter’s founding members, the Rev. C. Scott Robinson, who passed away recently.
Those interested in learning more about Kwanzaa may email email@example.com. Those who want to donate or become a GCNAACP member (and enjoy an interactive experience via the members-only Kwanzaa presentation) should visit the GCNAACP website, gcnaacp.org, to become an official member.
Devin Barroga, Vice President
Garrett County NAACP Branch