Kwanzaa about community, participants say

Dec. 30, 2012 @ 07:26 PM

A celebration on Sunday of the fifth day of Kwanzaa brought with it a call for participants to apply its key principles, unity most of all, to their daily lives.

Kwanzaa’s creator, Maulana Karenga, “was about saying we as African-Americans have lost sight of those principles that made us great people,” said Zayd Malik Shakur, master of ceremonies during Sunday’s event at the Holton Career and Resource Center.

Shakur was referring to the seven core principles of Kwanzaa, those being unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith.

“It’s what every person in this universe should be setting their lives by,” added Chuck Davis, director of the African American Dance Ensemble.

“The more we can do that, the stronger the community, and the stronger the community then we won’t have that … politically, that we had to go through and are still going through, because a house divided falls,” Davis said in an interview after Shakur addressed the more than 100 people who attended Sunday’s festivities.

The Holton gathering was one of a series of Kwanzaa-inspired celebrations around town that began last Wednesday.

Davis is scheduled to lead the wrap-up event on Tuesday in the Durham Armory, downtown on Foster Street. Doors will open at noon and performances will begin at 2:30 p.m.

Karenga launched Kwanzaa in 1966, calling for a seven-day honoring of African culture. It now occurs annually at the end of the year, starting the day after Christmas and running until New Year’s.

“What Kwanzaa was designed to do was bring African-Americans back to the roots of positive behavior,” Shakur said. “It had really nothing to do with race, from our perspective. It was more about our response, [in] 1966, to the assault on our people, and to the assault on our people by us.”

The annual celebration has proved to have staying power. Davis has helped organize annual festivities in Durham since moving here in the 1980s.

“It just strengthens the community, which is what’s vitally important,” Davis said of the observance. “People wish to be reminded, wish to be involved; it just takes a tiny bit of prodding. You get that bit of prodding for something as positive as this, and it works.”