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Kwanzaa Festival Launched In Spirit of Unity

Dec. 26, 2008– The African Diaspora Youth Development Foundation kicked off its 35th annual Kwanzaa festival Friday at the Wesley Methodist Educational Complex on St. Thomas. Close to 100 people showed up at the celebration, which was dedicated to President-elect Barack Obama.
“In the spirit of Imani, let us work with him to better our communities,” was the dedication on the event's program, referencing one of the seven principles of Kwanzaa. The evening's theme was Umoja, or unity.
Kwanzaa is a seven-day celebration developed by Dr. Maulana Karenga, a professor of African Studies at California State University. Karenga established Kwanzaa in 1966 as a way to rebuild his riot-torn Los Angeles community of Watts.
Kwanzaa begins each year on Dec. 26 and lasts until Jan. 1 and is focused around seven principles, each one represented by the seven days of the holiday: Umoja, unity; Kujichagulia, self-determination; Ujuma, which means working together; Ujamaa, supporting one another; Nia, purpose; Kuumba, creativity; and Imani which means faith.
To the people who celebrate Kwanzaa, it is more than just a week-long tradition. They say it is a lifestyle whose principles are integral to everyday living.
“I don’t just celebrate Kwanzaa because of my job," said Kwabena Davis, director of cultural studies for the Department of Education, "but because Kwanzaa speaks to the values that are important to the Virgin Islands.”
To Dara Cooper, an organizer of Kwanzaa in the Virgin Islands, Kwanzaa has always been a tradition growing up.
“When I was a little girl my parents and I would go over to UVI (University of the Virgin Islands) professor Gene Emanuel’s house to celebrate Kwanzaa,” said Cooper, reflecting on the holiday's importance to her.
“A self-proclaimed African holiday to encourage and remind us to appreciate ourselves and our heritage,” she said. “Large populations of people think that Kwanzaa is a cliché black celebration of Christmas, but the principles of Kwanzaa are the foundation of what Christmas was created for.”
For Jaribu Bobo, secretary of the African Diaspora Youth Development Foundation, her first experience with Kwanzaa was in 1979 when her husband gave her a book entitled “A Black Value System” by the poet and activist Imamu Amiri Baraka. Bobo says that this year’s Kwanzaa is dedicated to Obama because he is a perfect example — a role model for children to look up to.
When asked what Kwanzaa means to her, Bobo said, “It means being responsible for what you do in this community.”
The Kwanzaa celebration will continue throughout St. Thomas beginning on Dec. 27 at Faith Wesleyan Holiness Church at 6:30 p.m. A gathering will also take place on Dec. 28 at We Grow Food Headquarters at 10:00 a.m., and later that day at the UVI Club House at 3:30 p.m. Celebrations will also be held on Dec. 30 at Lindberg Bay Park Gazebo at sundown and Dec. 31 at Brewers Bay Beach starting 6:30 a.m. The final event is on Jan. 1 at Brewers Bay Beach at noon.
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