African American students anticipate and prepare for the Multicultural Center’s pre-Kwanzaa event and presentation.
Like Christmas, Kwanzaa is approaching quickly, and as the year comes to a close, students on campus prepare for both holidays.
On Wednesday, Ohio University’s Multicultural Center will present Madafo, a griot performer who will express the importance of Kwanzaa and African American culture through artistic appeal and passionate storytelling. Madafo is famous for a wide variety of work in creative fields, such as an author for children’s books and a musician.
“The griot, the storyteller, the historian has the responsibility to keep alive what was taken away from us and lost,” Madafo said. “It’s to keep alive who and what we are.”
Kwanzaa is celebrated from Dec. 26 until Jan. 1. The holiday was created in 1965 and bases itself on its seven principles: unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith. Each principle is represented by a candle; one is lit each day.
“(Kwanzaa is) considered an African American holiday; it’s not an African American Christmas,” said Winsome Chunnu-Brayda, associate director of the Multicultural Center. “Kwanzaa is not a replacement for Christmas. It’s around the same time as Christmas, but it has nothing to do with it. There are people who celebrate both.”
Chunnu-Brayda said the center tries to interchange the types of speakers it brings to OU for Kwanzaa. Some guests speak from a folklore perspective, a performing arts or a black civil rights perspective.
The Multicultural Center’s has hosted the pre-Kwanzaa event for 20 years and usually accommodates more than 200 students each year. Chadonn Cummings, a senior and the Black Student Cultural Programming Board cultural arts director, said tonight will be no different.
“Every year, we go out university-wide to provide cultural awareness about the holiday,” Cummings said. “At the event, we have students who studied the principles light the candles and explain the symbolic items we have in our presentation.”
Madafo said the holiday is centered around African Americans because of its history, but he will be performing notable works from artists such as Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston, which most would recognize and enjoy.
“When you read the seven principles, it’s very difficult to say anything negative because they were the same principles that were taught to me before I even knew what Kwanzaa was,” Madafo said. “It was believed that African Americans were not honorable enough to have a celebration. The fact that we were told we had no history — it’s amazing to me what people can take away from people by the color of your skin.”
Chunnu-Brayda said the time period alone screamed black pride and a holiday was born from social and civil unrest in the United States. The principles highlight a strong representation of what the black community believed for strengthening the African American race.
“When (people) celebrate Kwanzaa, they celebrate themselves. However, we had been celebrating ourselves all the time, we just didn’t have a name for it,” Madafo said. “We celebrate ourselves as a people who is always continuing to move forward.”