MILWAUKEE — Sunday kicked off the seven-day celebration of Kwanzaa. In Milwaukee, community leaders celebrated the first day of Kwanzaa, hoping the celebration goes beyond this week and the principals taught are passed down for generations.
It was all dance, drums, and laughter Sunday at the Wisconsin Black Historical Society.
“Umoja. It means unity. Sticking together. Working together. Understanding your relationship with your ancestors, father, mother, wife and husband,” said Clayborn Benson, founder of the Wisconsin Black Historical Society.
Along with the celebration, Umoja marked a time to come together. Sunday's kick-off celebration sold out with more than 100 in attendance, a number that’s been significantly higher in the past.
“Normally, we have 4 to 500 people. Today, we have maybe 125 to 150 people, and those limited numbers are due to COVID,” Benson said.
Over the course of a week, seven principles are taught: unity, self-determination, collective responsibility, cooperative economic, purpose, creativity and faith. Each with its own day, but the goal is to display those principles year-round.
“I think one misconception about Kwanzaa is that it’s an alternative to Christmas. But it’s an entity that stands on its own that represents the richness, the wholesomeness and the legacy of the Black culture,” said Ajamou Butler.
Butler said it's encouraging to see more people each year engaging in the celebration of Black culture.
“No matter how they heard about it or where they heard about it, I’m glad that they are here. The consciousness and awareness is definitely coming back alive,” Butler said.
Several Kwanzaa events are taking place throughout the week:
- Mon. Dec. 27 – Kwanzaa Open Mic (127 E. Wells at 7 p.m.)
- Wed. Dec. 29 – Cooperative Economics: From the Home to the Community (3020 W. Vliet St. at 5 p.m.)
- Thu. Dec. 30 -- Nia: Purpose (2620 W. Center St. At 1 p.m.)
- Fri. Dec 31 - ‘Kwanzaa’ (3020 W. Vliet St. at 10 a.m. and 10 p.m. [Two part session])
- Sun. Jan 2 – All People’s Church Kwanzaa Service (2600 N. 2nd St. At 10:45 a.m.)