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Local Kwanzaa events to include holiday’s founder

Maulana Karenga, the founder of Kwanzaa, will return to Buffalo on Tuesday as part of the local celebration of the holiday, which began on Saturday and continues through Friday.

The devastation of the Watts riots in Los Angeles in 1965 left Karenga looking for a way to unite and empower African-Americans. He decided to create a non-religious holiday that incorporates elements of various African harvest celebrations in an effort to emphasize the importance of family and community.

He wanted to “give blacks an alternative to the existing holiday and give blacks an opportunity to celebrate themselves and history, rather than simply imitate the practice of the dominant society,” he once said.

Each night of Kwanzaa, a candle is lit to honor one of the seven principles: unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith.

Karenga, professor and chair of Africana studies at California State University at Long Beach, will speak Tuesday evening in Buffalo Academy of Visual and Performing Arts, 450 Masten Ave., which will serve as the location for most of the festivities during each day of Kwanzaa.

The celebration began on Saturday, with a children’s Kwanzaa earlier in the day, followed in the evening by an opening ceremony and tribute to ancestors and elders, along with performances by Daughters of Creative Sound and Tradition Keepers Storytellers.

On Sunday, Leonard Jefferies will speak at 11 a.m. in the CAO Masten Resource Center, 1423 Fillmore Ave. Jefferies founded the black studies program at San Jose State College in California, and then for two decades chaired the black studies department at the City College of New York. He is known for his Pan-African Afrocentrist views.

At 7 p.m. Sunday, the African American Cultural Center will provide performances in Performing Arts.

Kwanzaa Consciousness Night on Monday will feature spoken word and a play, “Fesito Goes to Market.” Events will begin at 7 p.m. in Performing Arts.

On Tuesday, the Daughters of Creative Sound and the Issiatou Afrikan Dance Ensemble of Miss Barbara’s Dance School will kick off the evening at 7 p.m. in Performing Arts, prior to Karenga’s keynote speech.

The Black Chamber of Commerce will present a panel, Black Independent Business Ownership, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday in Performing Arts, followed by a Neo Soul concert featuring Will Holton and Drea d’Nur and Friends from 8 to 9:30 p.m.

On Thursday, the program will begin at 5 p.m. in the Pratt Center, 422 Pratt St., featuring a special performance by Fragrance of YAH. The evening will include a Karamu feast and community open mic. Those who attend are asked to bring a dish to share; organizers ask that no red meat, alcohol or pork be included in the dishes.

Kwanzaa events will conclude at noon Friday in CAO Masten Resource Center, 1423 Fillmore Ave., with the Fabulous Old School B-Boys and a history presentation by Eva M. Doyle.