A New Generation of Multi-Cultural Students Celebrate Kwanzaa

With the holiday season in full swing, students from different backgrounds are preparing to celebrate the customs and traditions of their native cultures.

Unlike religious holidays such as Christmas and Hanukkah, Kwanzaa is an African celebration of family, community and culture.

Maulana Karenga, Africana Studies professor at California State University, founded the holiday 34 years ago. Kwanzaa was created to ignite a sense of unity among the African-American and worldwide African community.

Lasting from Dec. 26 to Jan. 1, each day incorporates one of the seven guiding principles. The English translations of these principles are unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith.

More than 100 Ball State students, staff and faculty members attended the third-annual Kwanzaa celebration in the Kinghorn Hall multipurpose room Thursday. Sponsored by the African Student Association and the Multicultural Center, the event invited students to learn about the holiday while taking part in a traditional ceremony and an African meal.

Felicia Lasley, a fourth year Spanish major, saw a flyer for the event and was excited to learn more about the purpose of Kwanzaa. Lasley had considered celebrating Kwanzaa before the event and after learning more about Kwanzaa’s values, was excited to begin celebrating it annually.

“I think the seven principles of Kwanzaa are the best part. They are essential to any person regardless of racial background and religion and deserve to be celebrated,” said Lasley.

Assistant Director of the Multicultural Center Ketwana Schoos said the event acted as an opportunity to mesh cultures together.

“The idea is to bring together groups who normally wouldn’t be together. The best way of doing that is through educating and breaking bread, which we’ve done a great job of,” said Schoos.

The Multicultural Center holds various cultural events throughout the year to celebrate diversity around campus. Heritage months such as Black History Month and Hispanic Heritage Month are celebrated by the Multicultural Center to create awareness and a broader knowledge of minorities around campus.

“We act as a support system for students of under-represented minorities. It’s intended for all students to eat, converse, interact and learn about the diverse world around them,” said Schoos.

The menu at the event incorporated American food as well as authentic African dishes such as palaya sauce, which is a mixture of palm oil, onions, tilapia, spinach, plantain and red chilis; mandazi, a doughnut-like breakfast food native to East Africa; lentil stew, a combination of lentils, cilantro, red onions, green peppers, tomatoes and curry powder; vassa rice, chicken, onions, vinegar, cilantro and jasmine rice; and chapati, an unleavened flatbread made with milk, oil and flour.

The Multicultural Center, along with the African Student Association, began preparation for the event months ago and spent three days preparing a meal for 80 people. Originally held during the day at the Multicultural Center house on campus, the event was moved to Kinghorn Hall multipurpose room in hopes of attracting a larger crowd. With its largest turnout in three years, Schoos expects the event to keep expanding to an even bigger venue as its popularity increases.

The event attracted a diverse turnout of all different ages, races and backgrounds interested in learning about the traditions of Kwanzaa.

Emmanuel Kwame Teye, a second year solar molecular biology and biotechnology graduate student, as well as a member of the African Student Association, was excited to celebrate an event that ties into his culture. Teye moved to the United States just over a year ago from Ghana in West Africa. He began celebrating Kwanzaa two years ago, and believes it is an essential holiday for the worldwide African community.

“The best part is seeing the African community trace back to their roots through celebrating the culture. It brings people and family together by valuing unity,” said Teye.

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