Founder of Kwanzaa Opens the Holiday Observance at RIT, Dec. 12

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Dr. Maulana Karenga strives for unity in the family, community, nation and race

“Habari gani” is the Swahili phrase for “What is the news?” The news is heartening—guaranteed to lift the mind, soul and spirit this holiday season.

Dr. Maulana Karenga, creator of Kwanzaa, is coming to Rochester to share the symbolic holiday in a candle-lighting ceremony on Friday, Dec. 12, at Rochester Institute of Technology. The event is open to the Rochester community and begins at 6 p.m. in the Panara Theatre in the Lyndon Baines Johnson Building at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf. It will be followed by a free, communal harvest dinner.

“Kwanzaa is all about unity and our number one priority was to enable RIT students to come together to celebrate African culture,” says Wanda Dansler-Hill, program coordinator for RIT’s North Star Center for Academic Success and Cultural Affairs. “Lucky for us, North Star’s liaison to Student Affairs, Dr. Elleni Tedla, knows Dr. Karenga and was able to contact him about visiting our campus.”

Karenga is professor and chair of the Department of Black Studies at California State University at Long Beach, and author of “Kwanzaa: A Celebration of Family, Community and Culture.” The California philosopher created the holiday of Kwanzaa in 1966, in the midst of movements for civil rights and black power—hoping to unify Africans on the home continent and blacks in the rest of the world.

Kwanzaa runs from Dec. 26 to Jan. 1, and the tenets of the holiday’s Seven Principals are celebrated by millions of people across the world.

“We come together to give thanks, to recognize ancestors and celebrate a successful harvest,” explains Dansler-Hill. “We will close the evening ceremony with a feast called ‘karamu’—which includes collard greens, yams, wild rice and chicken. Kwanzaa is a time of celebration and a time of taking pride in our heritage.”

NOTE: The event is limited to 450 people. For reservations, call 475-4704. For photo opportunities or to schedule interviews, call 475-4951.