For many Long Islanders, Thursday means celebrating the time-honored tradition of returning Christmas gifts. But for others, Thursday will take on a deeper meaning — the first day of Kwanzaa, with related events planned for the rest of the week.
Kwanzaa, which means “first fruits of the harvest” in Swahili, is a cultural holiday created in 1966 by Maulana Karenga, a professor of Africana Studies at California State University Long Beach. The weeklong holiday pays tribute to the ancestral roots of African-Americans and celebrates African culture and values.
“The holiday is a secular holiday rooted in humanistic, spiritual and cultural principles,” said Barbara McFadden, of West Hempstead, the Long Island chapter president of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women.
From Dec. 26 to Jan. 1, observers use each day of Kwanzaa to celebrate each of its seven principles: unity, self-determination, collective responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith.
To McFadden, Kwanzaa is an annual occasion to remember those “who have gone before us” and celebrate the community bond of African-Americans.
“It’s an opportunity for people of African descent, no matter where we come from, to come together and remember that we are one people, we are one community and we have a connection with each other,” McFadden said Wednesday. “It’s to celebrate our uniqueness as a people of African descent.”
Long Islanders can celebrate the holiday at the following events:
- The National Coalition of 100 Black Women’s Suffolk County chapter will host an event from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. on Thursday at 1 Commerce Blvd. in Amityville.
- Also on Thursday, the Wyandanch Public Library is hosting a celebration from 6 to 7 p.m. at 14 S. 20th St.
- The Zeta Phi Beta Sorority and the Long Island Children’s Museum celebrate Kwanzaa at 2 p.m. Saturday at the museum, at 11 Davis Ave. in Garden City. The event is free after a $14 museum admission fee.
- Also on Saturday, the American Museum of Natural History in Manhattan will celebrate Kwanzaa from noon to 5 p.m. at the museum’s Milstein Hall of Ocean Life. The event will feature an artisan marketplace and a performance by the Brooklyn-based Balance Dance Theatre. Tickets are free with museum admission fees, which range from $13 to $23. The museum is at 200 Central Park West.
- The Central Islip Public Library is hosting a Kwanzaa celebration from 1 to 3:30 p.m. on Dec. 29. Visitors can expect music, speakers, art displays and a toy giveaway for children. The library is at 33 Hawthorne Ave. in Central Islip.
Nassau County Executive Laura Curran and the Office of Minority Affairs will host a celebration between noon to 2 p.m. on Monday (Dec. 30) at Roosevelt Field mall’s north court, near Dick's Sporting Goods. The program will feature the Ngoma (Drum) procession of distinguished elders and celebrate the fifth day of Kwanzaa, which focuses on the principle of purpose. The mall is located at 630 Old Country Rd. in Garden City.