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2011 Kwanzaa celebration includes visit by founder

Maulana Karenga, the founder of Kwanzaa, has participated in Buffalo's celebration almost every year.

Local organizers think they know why he makes the annual trek from the West Coast.

"Buffalo has one of the largest Kwanzaa celebrations in the country, so Dr. Karenga honors that by making the commitment every year," said Samuel L. Radford III, co-chairman of the Buffalo celebration.

Radford said some other cities might have larger one-night events, but they don't match Buffalo's week-long celebration of all seven Kwanzaa principles.

"We celebrate Kwanzaa the way he designed it," Radford said.

This year is no exception. Karenga will be keynote speaker of Friday's event, joining other national figures who will visit the city during the week-long celebration.

Kwanzaa, a Swahili word, is a nonreligious holiday observed over seven days, with each day devoted to one of seven principles: umoja, or unity; kujichagulia, or self-determination; ujima, or collective work and responsibility; ujamaa, or cooperative economics; nia, or purpose; kuumba, or creativity; and imani, or faith. All are based on values prevalent in African cultures.

The celebration begins Monday and runs through Jan. 1, with activities including the nightly lighting of one of the seven candles in the kinara, or candleholder, as well as a feast and gift-giving.

Buffalo's celebration has exploded in recent years, Radford said, and attracts 200 to 300 people per night.

Following is the schedule of this year's Kwanzaa activities, with all programs running from 7 to 9 p.m. unless otherwise noted:

Monday: Umoja/unity -- Opening ceremony featuring the Verbal Love Experience as well as music, poetry, dance and drumming, in the Buffalo Academy for Visual and Performing Arts, 450 Masten Ave.

Tuesday: Kujichagulia/self-determination -- A panel discussion with members of Watu Saconi, a group of African-American business owners who practiced cooperative economics on East Side business strips in the 1970s and '80s, plus dance and poetry, in the African American Cultural Center, 350 Masten Ave.

Wednesday: Ujima/collective work and responsibility -- Keynote speaker Queen Afua, New York City-based author of "Sacred Woman: A Guide to Healing the Feminine Body, Mind, and Spirit," plus dance, in the Frank E. Merriweather Jr. Library, 1324 Jefferson Ave.

Thursday: Ujamaa/cooperative economics -- Keynote speaker Dr. Alim Muhammad, minister of health for the Nation of Islam and the Millions More Movement, plus poetry, in Ujima Theatre, 545 Elmwood Ave.

Friday: Nia/purpose -- Karenga is the keynote speaker, preceded by Njozi Poets and Daughters of Creative Sound, in the Buffalo Museum of Science, 1020 Humboldt Parkway.

Saturday: Kuumba/creativity -- Chris Reynolds, WBLK radio program director, will be keynote speaker at a youth Kwanzaa celebration from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the African American Cultural Center. Reynolds began the station's "Know Thyself" campaign to give youth information that can improve their self-image and behavior. Later in the day, a feast in the Gateway Longview Family Resource Center, 347 E. Ferry St., with an open mic night from 5 to 8 p.m. and a dance party from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m.

Jan. 1: Imani/faith -- Reflection at home with family and friends on what was learned during Kwanzaa.

email: citydesk@buffnews.com