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Kwanzaa's founder celebrates cultural legacy at local festivities

The creator of Kwanzaa on Friday joined about 300 people for festivities connected with the holiday that were held in the Buffalo Museum of Science.

It's an annual pilgrimage for Maulana Karenga, the former University of California, Long Beach, professor who first launched the African cultural holiday in 1966. In addition to attending celebrations in Buffalo, Karenga and his wife, Tiamoya, also participate almost every year in Kwanzaa celebrations held in New York City and Philadelphia.

"These are strong places for strong traditions of practicing Kwanzaa and upholding the 'Nguzo Saba,' which are the seven principles, the hub and hinge on which the holiday turns," Karnga said.

"And, so, I come to support them, but I also come to celebrate with them, to share in the joy and reaffirmation of our cultural heritage and our history as an African people," he added.

Karenga estimated that there are between 20 million and 40 million people who celebrate Kwanzaa worldwide.

"People appreciate Kwanzaa, and they appreciate it because it is their special cultural truth in a multicultural world, because they use it to ground and guide their lives," Karenga said.

Karenga modeled the holiday after first-fruit harvest celebrations celebrated across the African continent since antiquity. Karenga organized Kwanzaa around seven days. The first day is celebrated on Dec. 26 and the final day of the celebration is Jan. 1. Each day represents a principle that is observed by lighting a candle in recognition for that particular principle.

Friday, the fifth day of Kwanzaa, was dedicated to Nia, Swhahili for "purpose."

"Every year I send the founder's message out and the theme this year is 'Kwanzaa and the seven principles,' sharing and sustaining the world. It is about an obligation to share the world and to sustain the world, because the world is in deep trouble, and not only because of continuing oppression and injustice to human beings but also because of the injury and injustice to the earth itself," Karenga said.

The hosts for Friday's Kwanzaa observance at the Science Museum were L. Nathan Hare and Karima Amin. Entertainment was provided by Daughters of Creative Sound and Njozi Poets.