LI Kwanzaa brings culture, to campus

Ceilidh Mar

“Roots: A Celebration of Black Heritage,” a slightly altered and much expanded program based on Lawrence’s traditional Kwanzaa celebration, takes place this Saturday. Although typically celebrated during late Dec., the traditional Lawrence Kwanzaa celebration is being altered to avoid scheduling conflicts. This new program has been expanded to include skits, readings, and musical performances highlighting black heritage. Assistant Dean of Students for Multicultural Affairs and advisor to Lawrence’s Black Organization of Students Rod Bradley comments: “This event is an opportunity for our community to engage in a shared experience of celebrating the richness of black heritage.”

Kwanzaa was created by Dr. Maulana Karenga, professor of black studies at California State University, Long Beach. Originally, it was a celebration aimed at revitalizing awareness of African American culture during the time of the black freedom movement, and has continued to express its ideals of community, family, and remembrance of the African culture.

Though its realization was grounded in the civil rights movement, the inspiration for Kwanzaa’s festivities reach much farther back into history. The name Kwanzaa originated from the Swahili phrase “matunda ya kwanza,” meaning “first fruits.” The original “first fruits” holiday developed from Nubian and Egyptian harvest festivals, which spread throughout several ancient communities in Africa.

The way in which Kwanzaa is currently celebrated has its foundations in the seven Nguzo Saba principles and five fundamental activities. The principles are based on fundamental community values including unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith. Although not considered a religious holiday, Kwanzaa activities do include leaving a special time for thanks and reverence for the creator. Activities also focus on community bonds, commitments to cultural ideas, and the knowledge of the past.

The Kwanzaa ceremonial colors of red, black, and green are drawn from a variety of cultural influences. Black represents the people, red is the people’s struggle, and green the hope for the future. The colors are central to the ceremony and represent important aspects of remembrance, a key part of Kwanzaa. To learn more about the principles of Kwanzaa visit the official Kwanzaa website at or the Melanet Kwanzaa site

This Saturday, Feb. 2, Lawrence University Black Organization of Students and Multicultural Affairs will throw the Kwanzaa dinner and student entertainment. “Roots: A Celebration of Black Heritage” will take place in the Buchanan Kiewit Center at 5:30 p.m. Doors will open at 5:00. Tickets are available in advance and cost $6 for Lawrence students and $10 for adults for pre-purchased tickets. When purchasing at the door ticket prices rise to $8 for Lawrence students, $12 for adults, and $4 for children under 12 years of age. You can reserve tickets by calling 832-7051 or by contacting the Lawrence University Box Office at 832-6749.