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Kwanzaa in Cleveland



Kwanzaa almost gets lost in the Cleveland celebrations of Christmas and Hanukkah. However, more than two percent of Americans across the country participate in this cultural celebration each year. Just what is Kwanzaa and what events are marking the occasion this year in Cleveland?

What is Kwanzaa?

Kwanzaa is a week-long celebration, held from December 26 to January 1 each year. First celebrated in 1966/1967, Kwanzaa celebrates African history and culture. The name "Kwanzaa" comes from the Swahili phrase matunda ya kwanza, which means "first fruits of the harvest."

There are seven principles of Kwanzaa:

  • Umojo (oo-moh'-jah) is unity.
  • Kujichagulia (koo-jee; chah-goo-lee'-ah) is self-determination.
  • Ujima (oo-jee'-mah) is collective work and responsibility.
  • Ujamaa (oo-jah'mah) is cooperative economics.
  • Nia (nee'-ah) is purpose.
  • Kuumba (koo-oom'-bah) is creativity.
  • Imani (ee-mah'nee) is faith.

Kwanzaa is traditionally marked by the lighting of a candelabra to signify hope and unity.The traditional colors for Kwanzaa are black, red and green. The blacks stands for the people; red stands for their struggle; and green stands for the future and hope that come from their struggle. Emphasis is put on the seven principles and each is discussed on a separate day of the celebration. The final day of Kwanzaa, January 1st, is marked with gift-giving and a feast for family and friends. In general, celebrating Kwanzaa doesn't preclude families from also celebrating Christmas. One is a cultural celebration and the other is a religious holiday.

Kwanzaa events in Cleveland and Northeast Ohio

There are many Kwanzaa events and activities in and around Cleveland. Below are just a few for the 2013 holiday: (more will be added as they are announced.)

  • Karamu House - The theater in Cleveland's Fairfax neighborhood holds special events during Kwanzaa each year.
  • Kwanzaa Party - December 26 at Greenmont Party Center, 800 S. Green Road in South Euclid. The celebration starts at 4pm and includes food, music and an African drum circle. Admission is free. For more information call 216-321-1539.
  • Kwanzaa Celebration - December 28 at 662 Wolf Ledges in Akron. The event, sponsored by Alpha Phi Alpha, Ujima and other community organizations, is free and open to the public.
  • Kwanzaa Celebration - December 30 at the Lorain Public Library, 351 Sixth St in Lorain at 1pm. Admission is free, but guests are asked to bring a covered dish for the meal.

In addition, many Cleveland churches with predominantly African-American congregations hold special events and special worship services during Kwanzaa.

More about Kwanzaa


(updated 12-27-13)



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