2007-12-06 / Community

Kwanzaa observance at CLU celebrates African values

By Sylvie Belmond belmond@theacorn.com

SYLVIE BELMOND/Acorn Newspapers KWANZAA FUN- Ranesha Harkness, left, and Christina Chambliss of Moorpark, along with Madison Hunter of Thousand Oaks, wait to receive a certificate of completion for attending the NAACP Saturday School program offered by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People at California Lutheran University. The presentations took place during a Kwanzaa event at CLU last Saturday. Kwanzaa is a nonreligious celebration observed annually by African Americans from Dec. 26 to Jan. 1. SYLVIE BELMOND/Acorn Newspapers KWANZAA FUN- Ranesha Harkness, left, and Christina Chambliss of Moorpark, along with Madison Hunter of Thousand Oaks, wait to receive a certificate of completion for attending the NAACP Saturday School program offered by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People at California Lutheran University. The presentations took place during a Kwanzaa event at CLU last Saturday. Kwanzaa is a nonreligious celebration observed annually by African Americans from Dec. 26 to Jan. 1. About 150 people of diverse backgrounds gathered at California Lutheran University last Saturday for an early celebration of Kwanzaa.

The sevenday event is observed annually from Dec. 26 to Jan. 1 by African American families who want to honor ancestral traditions, unity, family, community and culture.

Kwanzaa was created by a Long Beach State University professor in 1966 to introduce and reinforce seven basic values of African culture among African American people and Africans throughout the world. He wanted black Americans to reconnect with the experiences of their ancestors.

Cal Lutheran has been marking the occasion with presentations, food and music for the past 12 years to give local students and residents an opportunity to learn about the holiday together.

"We like the principles and the values Kwanzaa brings to the culture. People strengthen and encourage one another," said Juanita Hall, director of multicultural and international programs at CLU.

"Kwanzaa is not religious; it's a traditional African celebration, stemming from the harvest to celebrate the wealth of crops produced during the growing season, which happens to end around Christmas time," said Charles K. White, member of the Ventura County National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

"Many people think it's just a madeup black celebration exclusively for African Americans, but that's not true," he said. White is codirector of the NAACP Saturday School program in Ventura County.

Families, students and friends representing many different ethnic groups participated in the Kwanzaa event CLU, all enjoying the celebration of African traditions.The event also marked the end of a semester for the 37 students who attend the NAACP Saturday School, an academic enrichment program for young people sponsored by several local companies and organizations.

The students, who are between the ages of 5 and 18, showcased what they learned through poetry, song and dance.

"It's about the children, and the central focus of the day is on the kids. They learn to express the principles of Kwanzaa in multiple ways," said Hall. The potluck meal prepared by the Ventura County Afro-Centric Committee and served following the presentations is also a big part of Kwanzaa, she said.

CLU organizes the local event in conjunction with the Ventura County Afro-Centric Committee and the NAACP.

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