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Students celebrate Kwanzaa

Caitlin Housley | Thursday, December 9, 2010

Kwanzaa may not start until Dec. 26, but the Sisters of Nefertiti and the Multicultural Service and Student Program (MSSP) of Saint Mary’s held a pre-Kwanzaa event to help students prepare for the upcoming holiday.

“[Kwanzaa] is an African American Holiday that is based on an African celebration of first fruits,” Stephanie Bridges, director of MSSP, said. “African Americans celebrate it as a way to reconnect with their heritage, family and community.”

Students and faculty presented the traditions of Kwanzaa and outlined Kwanzaa’s seven principles — unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith.

Participants were encouraged to offer a water libation, or sacrifice, to their loved ones who had died. By saying the loved one’s name out loud, the participant asked for their presence at the event.

Stacy Davis, associate professor of Religious Studies, said the table adornments were important. There were seven candles — each representing a different principle — a basket of fruits, cultural books and art, the libation cup and corn.

Davis said the ears of corn represented the children of the world. Even if a family has no children, members are still encouraged to place two ears of corn on the table, signifying their strife to make life better for those who come after them.

Various members of the Saint Mary’s community presented and offered interpretations of Kwanzaa’s principles.

Carrie Call, director of the Office of Civic and Social Engagement, presented on the principle of collective work and responsibility. She said this principle is important in daily life because one thing that helps people overcome their differences is a common goal, or collective work.

This relates to the idea of “taking on others’ problems so that they become your own,” Call said.

Sophomore Joi Pugh presented on cooperative economics. As an accounting major, Pugh said she understands the importance of having money, but as a volunteer, she said it is also important to give donations to those less fortunate.

Pamela Blair, Saint Mary’s administrative assistant, presented on creativity and shared her own piece of poetry. She said everyone has important gifts to discover.

“How you positively carry yourself through the day has the way to peacefully affect others,” she said.

Bridges said Kwanzaa is similar to other holidays celebrated at this time of year.

“The basics are the same in that it is a celebration of family and community love. It is different, however, in that the focus is not in gift giving,” she said. “The emphasis is more on reconnecting with your heritage through the types of gifts you give.”