Vital People: Kwanzaa is a celebration of community, family and culture

Vital People: Kwanzaa is a celebration of community, family and culture

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Kwanzaa, which comes from a Swahili phrase for ‘first fruits of the harvest’, began on Boxing Day.

In this week’s Vital People, Nanaimo African heritage Society president and founder Shalema Gantt tells us about this tradition, in her own words:

“We’ve celebrated Kwanzaa for the past five years at least.

It’s a week long celebration and it has unity, and prosperity, and the building of the culture, the community, African culture, strengthening, and having faith, and believing that all that we are enduring can all be possible as long as we work together in unity.

It was actually created by an African American, and he just felt like there wasn’t enough unity. It was either you were Christmas or you were Muslin or whatever religion you were, whatever faith you might have had, he thought that was something to celebrate.

I think African Americans are constantly trying to find their connection with Africa, after all, Mother Africa is where we came from.

Celebrating Kwanzaa has just been a way that we can connect with community.

 It’s not about giving, buying material things and giving it to people — it’s about sharing what we have naturally in our earth.

Fruit is a big part of it. Fruit has a lot to do with our nourishment and what we get off the earth, and just appreciating the harvest, appreciating the nature, appreciating where we are.

Gratitude — that’s big, too, and hope and love and all the wonderful cozy things we need to concentrate on as well.

It helps us to confirm where we are and give the strength to deal with all the difficulties we’re in today.

Each day we light a different candle. We have someone read out the principle and why we’re lighting that particular candle.

 I really believe in the principles of it and I light the candles when there’s people around and it gives me peace and joy and it brings me feeling like I’m closer to the people that are here, and praying for the world, and praying for what’s happening in the world today.”

Tess van StraatenTess van Straaten

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