Friday, January 3, 2014


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Heri-za Kwanzaa! Happy Kwanzaa!
     Actually, it ended on January 1, but my family was invited to a last day's celebration in a friend's church. I've never been at one of these Holidays and didn't know, what to expect.
     As usual, I had to spread the word around, but only my children, Sonny and Hanah, and Evelyn, a lady from my church, made it there. The setting was quite humble, but the spirit was rich with joy and music.
     Kwanzaa is a seven day celebration of the family and individual virtues that should be and are central in every culture.was originated in 1967. At it's first ever observance, when it was called Kwanza (with one 'A'), seven children came out to say  something about each letter in that word. But there were only six letters! So, one more 'A' was added to honor the seventh child!  
     Every day of Kwanzaa celebrates a different virtue. On the last day it is Faith - Imani. The sanctuary was decorated with African hangings and figurines. In front stood a table covered with African Red, Green and Black flag. On it were objects central to Kwanzaa observance: a candlestick with seven red, green and black candles, which are lit one by one every day of the holiday; corn - symbol of fruitfulness or children ( in a family, they would have as many corns on the table as there are children in the family), presents, Zavadi, for everyone. A group of drummers  played a very lively and lovely tune on a variety of African drums. As we found out later, children among them were just kids from the audience: their participation was unrehearsed and voluntary.
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Tacuma King
images (259×194)images (268×188)     The leader of the ceremony, Tacuma King, who has a group called Bay Area Youth Arts, and some other people told us about Kwanzaa. We heard more, but never enough, of music, tales and poetry. Tacuma King spoke at length of keeping the family respect and virtues through cultural observances. At one point he pointed at Hanah, who sat smack in the middle of the room and shouted: "Young lady, I love your nose!" My daughter is half-Japanese and has a Japanese nose. The man continued: "Your nose shows us that all life originated in Africa!" By then, my jaw was hanging open. I whispered to Hanah: "Is he really talking to you?" She said: "I think so!" Then I understood: the wide, flat Asian noses are very much like African noses! And even if I have a small, tall Jewish nose, my ancestors also come from the African continent! 
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Pastor Muhyee on the right with some friends
  Kwanzaa became even more  real to me then. We clapped and swayed and stomped to music and shouted "Ashe!" - yes! (I think) - to everything. At the end of the program, Pastor Mustafa Muhyee, dressed in a very smart dashiki, spoke briefly from the pulpit. He reminded us that our strength comes from God and from our cultures. Ashe!
     Lunch was delicious: a stew with okra and beans, corn bread, black eyed peas, chicken wings. Every family received a Zavadi - gift. All in all, we came away from Kwanzaa enriched in spirit and with full bellies, as well! Heri Za Kwanzaa!

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