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Kwanzaa Network UK set to mark 50-year milestone

CELEBRATION: Kwanzaa Network UK

WHILE CHRISTMAS festivities begin to wind down across the Western world, the African thanksgiving celebrations of Kwanzaa will begin.

The seven-day celebration of African culture takes place between December 26 and January 1 and will be commemorated by more than 28 million people across the African continent and diaspora. In the UK a series of special events will be orchestrated by Kwanzaa Net- work UK, to celebrate the organisations 50th anniversary.

Bevis Gooden, an organiser of Kwanzaa Network UK, believes the movement’s achievements during the past 50 years have been notable. Speaking to The Voice, Gooden said: “Fifty years ago Kwanzaa was celebrated in one UK location, but today it takes places in 20 different localities across the country.

“Africans come together during Kwanzaa celebrations and by sharing aspects of our common history, culture and heritage unity is experienced and passed on to the younger generation and business encouraged.”

Dr Maulana Karenga, an African American academic, activist and author, who founded Kwanzaa Network UK in 1966, agrees. He said: “It is in celebrating Kwanzaa and practicing its Nguzo Saba or the seven principles, that our families and community are reaffirmed, reinforced and our lives enriched and expanded.

“It is a time of recommitment to our highest cultural ideals in our ongoing efforts to be the best of what it means to be both African and human in the fullest sense.”

Kwanzaa Network UK is a coalition of organisations, which oversees the various celebrations. During the seven-day festival, an array of cultural events will take place across cities including Wolverhampton, Leeds and Birmingham.

African markets will be set up in locations, displaying a variety of items, including educational books, jewellery and health products. Communal feasts, African dancing and guest speakers, such as actor and Muslim Leo Muhammad, will add to the cultural experience.

Describing the economic benefits of celebrating Kwanzaa, Gooden said: “Over the years, Kwanzaa has inspired the start of various businesses, children’s clubs, catering companies, book shops and much more.”

To provide free entrance to the Round Chapel in Hackney on the 26th, Kwanzaa Network UK is attempt- ing to raise £4,000 through crowdfunding. Currently, a total of £1,449 has been raised for the celebration.

When Karenga created the festival of Kwanzaa in 1966, he said his goal was to “give blacks an alternative to the existing holiday and provide an opportunity to celebrate themselves and their history, rather than simply imitate the practice of the dominant society”.

Kwanzaa is a cultural celebration for the African community, based upon seven principles, the Nguzo Saba. In different parts of Africa, celebrants of Kwanzaa observe the cultural principle for that day. In due course, these values are infused into the family – from the youngest to the oldest.

A central model for Kwanzaa is Umkhosi or the Zulu first-fruit celebration, which also takes place over seven days and is celebrated at the end of December. Other African first-fruit celebrations – which take place at the end of the old year and the beginning of the new year – include Pertem Min of Egypt.

Historians believe that Kwanzaa’s model is older than Christmas and the Jewish celebration Hanukkah and thus does not borrow their ideas.

Dr Karenga believes the Kwanzaa movement will continue to gather strength in the future. “In another fifty years, the Nguzo Saba will continue to be an important value system for us as African people in this country and throughout the global African community,” he said. “The values they teach are timeless and speak to dignity- affirming and life-enhancing ways that we must relate to each other and which helps to build good communities and societies.”

Regarding Kwanzaa Network UK, Gooden believes it will continue to grow in size, and the celebration in popularity.
He said: “We currently have 20 organisations under our umbrella, but I expect this will expand.”

The Kwanzaa Network has produced a commemorative souvenir brochure that is on sale for a minimum donation of £3. Information can be obtained by visiting the website www.kwanzaanetwork.com. Donations to the crowdfunding page is available at www.youcaring.com/ kwanzaauk

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