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Bringing a Kwanzaa lesson to LI

On Dec. 26, Andrew Taylor of Huntington will light the first candle to celebrate Kwanzaa. Taylor will light a candle each day for seven days in recognition of the seven Kwanzaa principles - unity, self-determination, collective work, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith. Kwanzaa means “first fruits” in Swahili and is celebrated through Jan. 1.

As a teacher and a poet, Taylor, 25, was thrilled to read one of his poetry selections at the Kwanzaa Celebration, held Sunday at the Brentwood Public Library.

Taylor said that recognizing Kwanzaa each year has shown him how to embrace his ancestry and cultural awareness.

“Kwanzaa is a celebration and a respect for your ancestors and one another, and it has shown me how to understand my cultural identity,” he said.

The event, in its 28th year, is hosted by Bay Shore’s Norman Daniels, a professor of multicultural affairs at Suffolk County Community College. Daniels began the Kwanzaa Celebration because he noticed the lack of knowledge regarding Kwanzaa among Long Island residents.

“There was a cultural void in terms of African Americans understanding Kwanzaa on Long Island,” Daniels said. “When we talk about the African-American culture, we always talk about slavery and don’t always acknowledge the good points. Kwanzaa is a celebration of good and I want to embrace that. Worldwide, there are 30 million people celebrating Kwanzaa and I would like the number of people that celebrate Kwanzaa on Long Island to grow.”

The festive and educational show includes a candle-light ceremony recognizing the seven principles of Kwanzaa; a drum solo; dancers from El Teatro Rodante Hispanico of Central Islip; and Daphne’s Divine Dancers of Bay Shore showcasing their Latino and gospel dance moves inspired by African cultures.

Daniels made the show interactive by encouraging audience members to perform an ancestral shout-out recognizing the names of individuals that held a special meaning in their lives. Names called out aloud included Adam Clayton Powell, Marcus Garvey, Malcolm X, Harriet Tubman and Arthur Ashe.

Brentwood’s Naomi Robinson said that a Kwanzaa celebration is the perfect opportunity for the community to come together and educate itself.

“It’s important because we have to understand other cultures,” she said. To watch the candles lit and go through the seven principles was impressive to me,” she said.

For more information on future Kwanzaa Celebration events, call Daniels at 631-851-6341.

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