Members of the Najwa Dance Corps perform at the 2018 Kwanzaa Celebration at the DuSable Museum of African American History Wednesday, Dec. 26. | Rachel Hinton/ Sun-Times

DuSable Museum’s Kwanzaa kick-off includes dancers, drummers, puppets

SHARE DuSable Museum’s Kwanzaa kick-off includes dancers, drummers, puppets
SHARE DuSable Museum’s Kwanzaa kick-off includes dancers, drummers, puppets

A day after celebrating Christmas with her family in South Holland, Joyce Scott came out to theDuSable Museum of African American History for day one of Kwanzaa.

She’s there every year.

“We need to know about our culture,” Scott said. “If we knew we’re kings and queens, maybe there wouldn’t be so much violence.”

Joyce and over 100 others filled the museum’s main auditorium for the kick-off celebration.

Kwanzaa, founded by Ron Karenga, was first celebrated in 1966 and lasts from Dec. 26 to Jan. 1. It aims to “reconnect black Americans to their roots and recognize their struggle as people by building community,” according to a statement from the DuSable Museum. Kwanzaa derives from the Swahili term “matunda ya Kwanza,” which means first fruits.

There are seven principles for the seven days: umoja, or unity;Kujichagulia, or self-determination; ujima, or collective work and responsibility; ujamaa, or cooperative economics; nia, or purpose; kuumba, or creativity and imani, or faith.

At DuSable, Wednesday’s festivities included performances by the Thunder Sky Drummers and the Najwa Dance Corps. There were also Kwanzaa crafts and a Kwanzaa-themed puppet show for kids and those who weren’t able to make it into the main show.

Quiera Levy-Smith, visiting from Cincinnati, said the museum and its celebration are a “touchstone” for her. Levy-Smith grew up in Chicago; she returns to the city and museum regularly, bringing others with her. Places like the DuSable, she said, are “not found in other places in the country.”

“We’ve been celebrating Kwanzaa for many years,” Levy-Smith said. “It’s important that we reaffirm the importance of African-American culture and value systems and incorporate that into every new year.”

Scott, the South Holland resident, would agree. She’ll be back at the museum Thursday for day two. Next year, she hopes to bring the whole family to make sure knowledge of the holiday, and its meaning, is passed on.

“I have a lot of family with kids who’ve moved to the suburbs and I guarantee they don’t learn about Kwanzaa out there,” Scott said. “It’s important for the youngsters to learn about it so they can pass it down, 20 years from now, when they’re married.”

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