The Pan Afrikan Student Organization (PASO) will host their annual Kwanzaa celebration on Thursday, Dec. 6 in Alumni Hall from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
“Kwanzaa, a pan-African holiday, originated in 1966 as a week-long celebration when it was created by Dr. Maulana Karenga to give African Americans a holiday to celebrate their history and culture,” PASO Co-President Senior Zainab Jaji said.
Coming from the common Swahili phrase, ‘matunda ya kwanza,’ meaning first fruits of the harvest, the holiday begins on Dec. 26 and lasts until Jan. 1. Each day focuses on one of seven principles: unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith.
While Kwanzaa is not considered a religious holiday, it promotes themes of family, community, heritage and culture.
“Usually at this time of the year, families reflect on how the year has gone for them. I think celebration is a good way for everybody to come together to reflect on how the year has been, and to think about how far we’ve come as a society and what needs to be done to move us further [in life],” Jaji said.
PASO puts on five major events throughout the year which consist of the Our Story Conference, Kwanzaa, Black History Month, African Night and Hip Hop Night. Kwanzaa has been celebrated at Gustavus for about the past ten years.
The event will include celebrations, musical dance performances, a sampling of traditional African cuisines, a rendition of the Black national anthem, and a key note speaker. Speaking at the Kwanzaa event will be Professor Emeritus of Macalester College History Mahmoud El-Kati.
“He is a very engaging speaker who has a lot of experience teaching on civil rights issues and educating college students and others on African-American history and culture. He will talk about the Seven Principles of Kwanzaa, something that every speaker at our Kwanzaa celebration has done, but he will give his unique touch to his discussion of these principles,” Director of the African Studies Program and French Professor Paschal Kyoore said.
Professor Kyoore, who also serves as the academic advisor to PASO, will also perform some traditional music by playing a gyil, an African xylophone common in Ghana, Burkina Faso and Côte d’Ivoire.
“This instrument is used among other things on the occasion of the celebration of the harvest festivals of many African communities. Therefore, the musical performance would tally well with the origin of Kwanzaa as an East African tradition,” Kyoore said.
“I hope people will learn more about what Kwanzaa is all about. It is a celebration that reinforces the importance of creating, embracing and reinforcing our communal spirit. I hope that people will appreciate the importance of celebrating our diverse identities. I also hope that people will understand that the communal spirit that Kwanzaa strives to reinforce should not just be a one-day celebration. It should thrive in us for the rest of our lives,” Kyoore said.
Students are encouraged to sign up in the Diversity Center to attend the event.