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A celebration of self-determination

More than 200 people attended the second night of the seven-day Kwanzaa celebration Monday in the African American Cultural Center, 350 Masten Ave.

The second night of the celebration focused on the principle of kujichagulia, which in Swahili means self-determination. It is a vital principle in Buffalo's African-American community, said Sam Radford, chairman of the Buffalo Kwanzaa 2010 Committee.

"If you look at the conditions of our community, we're still living out the residual effects of slavery. So, being self-determined means we have a responsibility -- it's nobody else's responsibility -- to go back and find out who we were," Radford said.

"We learn African languages, African principles, and we begin to talk about our contribution to America as Africans. So, self-determination is a very important part of that," he added.

Sonya Abdul Wahed, of North Buffalo, said she celebrates Kwanzaa annually.

"I think it's important because the children need to become comfortable with themselves and understand other cultures and their own culture. They're always privy to what's going on in the European communities, but there's not a lot going on that they can identify with, so it's important to me because they can come out and be a part of something that's them, 100 percent," Wahed said.

Monday's observation of Kwanzaa featured several local vendors selling African crafts, garments, scents and reading material about African and African-American culture. "One of the nights of Kwanzaa is 'cooperative economics,' and so the whole idea is that we have to take responsibility for providing quality services to our community. We cannot continue to be a people that's dependent on other people to provide or meet our needs. So we ask people who are vendors of African cultural related items [and] African cuisines to be able to share it as part of the village," Radford said .

Several speakers at Monday's event encouraged those in attendance to support the local African-American community's cultural institutions. Among them were Terry Chaka, co-chairwoman of the Kwanzaa Committee in Rochester, who extolled the richness of Buffalo's cultural offerings. "As a matter of fact, I just came from the Kwanzaa celebration there. It is nothing like this, not this magnitude, not this energy, not this love," Chaka said. "Institutions, like the African American Cultural Center are vitally important," she added. "And so I just want to urge every single one of you to please support them all," said Chaka.

Among the highlights of Monday's celebration was a performance by the African American Cultural Center Dance Troupe.

Kwanzaa was created more than 40 years ago by Mulana Karenga, former chairman of the Afro-American Studies Department at California State University, Long Beach. He is scheduled to speak at today's celebration in Frank E. Merriweather Jr. Library, 1324 Jefferson Ave.

e-mail: hmcneil@buffnews.com

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