The Holiday season has officially arrived, and we can't get enough of all the events, activities, and markets this year. As someone who loves traditions, I'm grateful that Huntsville offers my family opportunities to create new ones while embracing the ones near and dear to our hearts, such as Kwanzaa.

I began celebrating Kwanzaa in the early 90s as a little girl on the south side of Chicago. My most vivid memories are of the community celebrations, various markets with handmade gifts and goods, and the family celebration we hosted every year on January 1st. Wanting to instill the same feelings of connectedness and community among my kids, I was excited to learn about the different ways to celebrate Kwanzaa here in Huntsville.


What is Kwanzaa?

It's common for those unfamiliar or new to celebrating Kwanzaa to be confused with the holiday and its meaning. But, by digging into the history, it's easy to understand that Kwanzaa is its own unique holiday, not meant to replace others or require one to be tied to a specific religion to celebrate.

Kwanzaa is an African American holiday created in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga to connect African American families to their African culture, roots, ancestors, and community. Kwanzaa is observed for seven days from December 26th through January 1st, with each day representing a different principle.

Kwanzaa Celebration

Celebrating Kwanzaa in Huntsville

A decade ago, the mother & daughter team, Khadijia and Soxhnamaimounatou Mbacke, founded KPANA (Kwanzaa Pan-African Association of North Alabama) Non-Profit Organization. and introduced the celebration and practices of Kwanzaa to Huntsville. After celebrating in other areas, they noticed the absence of community Kwanzaa observations in Huntsville and set out to introduce the celebration and practices to Huntsville. Their deep desire to share and ensure everyone could benefit from the Nuguzo Saba, or seven principles of Kwanzaa has led to a growing celebration that families can look forward to for years to come.

The first community-wide celebration occurred at Richard Showers Center and had a surprisingly large turnout. The celebration included African and Capeiora dancing, drumming, African food, and a collection of donations for the homeless. Since then, the festivities have grown to include several days and locations, such as Bridge Street, Downtown Huntsville Public Library, Madison Public Library, and North Huntsville Public Library, as well as performances ranging from jazz and storytelling to poetry and cooking demonstrations. With sites covering an extensive range of the Huntsville community and the support of local sponsors, KPANA is spreading the message of Kwanzaa and its principles far and wide.


The Seven Principles of Kwanzaa


Umoja (Unity): To strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation and race.


Kujichagulia (Self-Determination): To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves and speak for ourselves.


Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility): To build and maintain our community together and make our brother's and sister's problems our problems and to solve them together.


Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics): To build and maintain our own stores, shops and other businesses and profit from them together.


Nia (Purpose): To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.


Kuumba (Creativity): To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.


Imani (Faith): To believe with all our heart in our people, our parents, our leaders and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.


Happy Kwanzaa

When and Where to Celebrate

December 26th Bridgestreet Town Center, 2:00 pm - 4:00 pm

December 29th at North Huntsville library, 3:00 pm - 7:00 pm

December 30th at the Richard showers center, 3:00 pm - 7:00 pm

All events are free to the public and will include an explanation of the principles of Kwanzaa, surprise performances, and a taste of PanAfrican cuisine. Guests are encouraged to bring gently used or new items to donate to the homeless.

For more information, visit "Kwanzaa celebration" or "Kwanzaa99" on Facebook.

All pictures courtesy of KPANA