St. John the Evangelist Lutheran Church held their annual Kwanza celebration on December 18. Habari Gani is Swahili and translates to “What’s the news?” and it is a question that is asked on each of the seven days of Kwanza, each day has its own reply in Swahili. Kwanza starts on December 26th and ends on New Year’s Day. Starting in 1972 St. John’s has held an early Kwanza celebration that is open to the entire community and introduces and exercises the principles of Kwanza.
Kwanza was first celebrated in 1966. It was the brainchild of Maulana Karenga, a professor of Africana studies at California State University in Long Beach as a way to unite, empower,, and heal the African American community after the Watts Rebellion. Karenga took the word kwanza from the Swahili phrase matunda ya kwanza (translation: first fruits, kwanza is the Swahili word for first); he added an a to give it a seventh letter, so each of the seven children at the first celebration had a letter.