Kwanzaa 2020: Dover virtual celebration Saturday night

DOVER — Michael D. Brown, the artistic director of the Inner City Cultural League in Dover, said the seven principles that Kwanzaa celebrates each December could be beneficial to all people during a year of social injustice and cries for change.

Those seven principles of Kwanzaa, known as Nguzo Saba, utilize Kiswahili words: unity (umoja), self-determination (kujichagulia), collective work and responsibility (ujima), cooperative economics (ujamaa), purpose (nia), creativity (kuumba) and faith (imani).

Mr. Brown and the Inner City Cultural League will be bringing the tradition of Kwanzaa into people’s homes at 6 Saturday evening via Facebook Live and YouTube. It will be a virtual celebration that will include poetry reading and song and dance.

“It’s not a religious holiday. It’s a celebration of some very important principles that people can use in their everyday lives and any situation that would ultimately help, especially with the things that we’ve got going on with our world today,” Mr. Brown said. “If more people followed these principles, we could make a huge difference.”

Philadelphia actor Eric Carter will be emceeing the celebration, which will feature performances by Dover singer Amani Mason and a poetry reading by Stevie B, as well as the Sankofa African Drum and Dance Co. of the Inner City Cultural League.

Mr. Brown said they are keeping it safe and virtual, as the COVID-19 pandemic is hitting record numbers of new patients and deaths in December.

“We’re planning to have our Kwanzaa celebration virtually, similar to what we did for the African American Festival (last summer),” Mr. Brown said. “We want to keep our presence in the community, for certain.

“Kwanzaa is one of our staple events. We always look forward to it. It’s a family thing. It’s something that a lot of our families actually celebrate in their homes.”

That celebration includes lighting a candle on a Kinara each night for seven days during the holiday. While lighting, families discuss one of the seven principles of Kwanzaa.

The candles on the Kinara are black, red and green — black symbolizes the people, red for their struggle and green for the future and hope that comes from that struggle.

There are also seven symbols that are utilized each night of Kwanzaa, a name that comes directly from the Swahili phrase “matunda ya kwanza,” meaning “first fruits.”

Celebrations surrounding first fruits have a deep history in African culture and major religions, although Kwanzaa itself is not a religious holiday.

The seven symbols of Kwanzaa are the Kinara (a candleholder), Mishumaa Saba (seven candles), Mkeka (the mat), Mazao (crops), Muhindi (ears of corn), Kikombe Cha Umoja (a unity cup) and Zawadi (gifts).

An African feast known as Karamu also takes place on New Year’s Eve. Parents give children gifts — which are encouraged to be educational in nature and promote African heritage — during this holiday, as well.

“Kwanzaa is about seven principles over seven days,” Mr. Brown said. “This year, because of the pandemic, our celebration is going to be a little smaller because of capacity, so we’re going to set it up like a little poetry, cafe-style event.

“We have some great artists that are on board to entertain, along with our Sankofa dancers and drummers, and we are really looking forward to a memorable evening.”