St. John’s Kwanza Greetings Habari Gani!

Saundra Bradford (right), one of the the original founders of Crispus Attucks and the KWANZAA celebrations at St. John’s that began nearly 50 years ago, leads the Kwanzaa candle lighting ceremony. The table is laid out with the first fruits and other symbols of Kwanzaa photo credit: St. John the Evangelist Lutheran Church

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.

Author: Lori Ann Doyon

Managing editor, head writer, and lead photographer of Greenline | North Brooklyn News since October 2014. Resident of Williamsburg, Brooklyn since 1990.

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