As 2022 reaches its end, residents gathered at the Carmine Carro Community Center on Wednesday evening, December 28th to observe the final event of Marine Park Alliance’s (MPA) Festival of Lights, Kwanzaa.
Organized by the MPA, Brooklyn College’s Department of Africana Studies and its Linguistics Program, this year’s Kwanzaa event was curated by Brooklyn College English Assistant Professor Dr. Simanique Moody, as attendees learned about the origins and customs of Kwanzaa.
Moody delved into the history of Kwanzaa, teaching the audience that Maulana Karenga, an African-American political activist, created the holiday in 1966. The holiday incorporates African customs and traditions, including its name, coming from the Kiswahili phrase “matunda ya kwanza,” which translates to “first fruits.” Kwanzaa is observed from December 26th to January 1st and each day is part of Nguzo Saba (the seven principles). A candle is lit on a seven-branched kinara to symbolize the dedication of each day to the specific principle — Umoja (unity), Kujichagulia (self-determination), Ulima (collective work), Ujamaa (cooperative economics), Nia (purpose), Kuumba (creativity) and Imani— (faith).
Afterwards, Malika Iman continued with a libation ceremony, pouring a liquid into the ground or a bowl to honor a deceased elder or loved one, referred to as an ancestor. Throughout the event, special guests performed musical acts or recited poetry, often connected to the themes of Kwanzaa. Brooklyn College student Nyla Ward recited a poem in honor of a childhood friend with the themes of Imani and Kujichagulia. Iman read an excerpt from her book, “Kwanzaa with My Father,” and reflected on who her father was and how he taught his community the meaning of Kwanzaa.
People considered what they learned whether it was with Kwanzaa or even learning new words from Kiswahili. They were excited to engage with the community and even look forward to the next year with newfound knowledge.
“As we are still in the midst of a pandemic, people have been so disconnected. This event and events like this are bringing us back together and reconnecting us,” said Moody. “Many of the attendees learned a lot [and] feel more empowered to understand what Kwanzaa is all about and can practice it if they choose to. I think that’s the goal – to educate and to inspire. That’s what we aim to do at Brooklyn College. We want to make this entire city our classroom and I think we have done that.”