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Celebrating Kwanzaa

There are plenty of wonderful traditions to share in with your family at this time of year.

Kwanzaa is Melodye Micere Van Putten's personal favourite.

The poet and educator said the cultural celebration wasn't a replacement for religious holidays like Christmas.

Instead it's a tradition observed by black people of all different faiths from around the world.

It's even something that children and young people can benefit from, she said.

Mrs Van Putten will explain more about the tradition at her “Got Kwanza?” workshop, tonight on the second floor of the Bermuda National Library from 6.30pm to 8.30pm.

Q: Why do you believe parents should teach their children about the tradition of Kwanzaa?

A: Kwanzaa is a cultural holiday that is ideal for teaching children values that all successful people utilise.

The Nguzo Saba — seven principles — are unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, co-operative economics, creativity, purpose and faith.

The principles are universal and simply clothed in cultural garb, reflecting both our history and our culture. It is also a reinforcement of important values — or what I call guideposts for living. Young people who learn about Kwanzaa have yet another tool to use, another way to be motivated, another opportunity to understand the excellence from which they come.

Q: What was it like for your family when you first practised Kwanzaa?

A: It was beautiful! Our celebrations were with the nuclear family and extended family.

It included sharing a meal and having rich discussions on the principle of the day and how we could use it to enhance our daily living.

My son was in primary school when we started and it was exciting for him — learning the principles in Swahili, lighting the candles, having conversation about what it really means.

Our young people are very intelligent and it is up to parents and the extended family to engage them in dialogue about the world around them and the principles of Kwanzaa provide an ideal and meaningful opportunity for that type of engagement.

Q: How was celebrating Kwanzaa different from other traditions like Christmas for you?

A: Let me take this opportunity to say that Kwanzaa is not black Christmas and is not a replacement for Christmas, nor is it religious. Kwanzaa is a cultural holiday practised by black people of various faiths, all around the world.

The roots of these holidays are not the same, though they share ideas of reflection and gratitude.

I continue celebrating it because it has meaning.

Kwanzaa is a reflective, meaningful observance that has implications for living with consciousness. Kwanzaa is about thinking — how to live my life, improve my community, grow my talents and make a difference in the world.

Q: Why do you want to teach other local families about it through your “Got Kwanzaa?” workshop?

A: All progressive black people need to know about Kwanzaa — the facts and not the myths — and decide whether it will enhance the life of their family. But you cannot make an informed decision without concrete information.

The “Got Kwanzaa?” workshop will provide answers to questions, demonstrate the beauty, symbolism and pageantry of the cultural holiday and, hopefully inspire more people to join with the millions of black people worldwide who celebrate Kwanzaa, including those here in Bermuda.

Q: What do you hope attendees will learn and leave with?

A: People who attend will learn about the history of Kwanzaa — including details about its founder, symbolism, the principles and the intention — why it is important. We will also have a community discussion based on the principles as it relates to how we can use the principles to empower ourselves. I want them to leave with concrete knowledge (facilitated by a keepsake handout).

I want them to leave feeling inspired and motivated. They will also leave with their ticket as a ten per cent discount coupon for Kwanzaa purchases at Brown and Company.

It will be an evening of knowledge, fellowship and inspiration ... could anything be better?

Cultural celebration: Author Melodye Micere Van Putten will discuss the significance of Kwanzaa at a workshop tonight

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Published December 04, 2014 at 8:00 am (Updated December 04, 2014 at 12:42 am)

Celebrating Kwanzaa

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