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Kwanzaa begins with parade on Crenshaw Boulevard


LOS ANGELES, Calif.–A parade was held along Crenshaw Boulevard today to mark the start of the seven-day African American festival of Kwanzaa.

The parade began at noon at Crenshaw and Adams boulevards, then headed to Leimert Park, where a festival was held that included musical and spoken word entertainment.

President Barack Obama and his wife released a statement expressing well wishes.

“Michelle and I extend our warmest thoughts and wishes to all those who are celebrating Kwanzaa this holiday season,” he said.

“Today is the first of a joyful seven-day celebration of African American culture and heritage. The seven principles of Kwanzaa–unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith–are some of the very values that make us

“As families across American and around the world light the Kinara today in the spirit of umoja, or unity, our family sends our well wishes and blessings for a happy and healthy new year.”

The theme of the 34th annual Kwanzaa Gwaride Parade and Festival was “Improving Ourselves Naturally,” emphasizing lowering obesity, reducing hypertension and stopping diabetes, according to Tammy Lee of People of Color, the parade’s organizers.

Eve Allen, a doctor of alternative healing practices, was the Iyaba (queen) of the parade and the herbalist and record producer Doctah B Sirius was the oba (king).

Kwanzaa was created in 1966 by Maulana Karenga, now a professor in Cal State Long Beach’s Department of Africana Studies, in what he called “an audacious act of self-determination.”

Kwanzaa’s focus is the “Nguzo Saba,” the Seven Principles.

During the week, a candelabrum called a Kinara is lit, and ears of corn representing each child in the family are placed on a traditional straw mat.

African foods such as millet, spiced pepper balls and rice are often served. Some people fast during the holiday, and a feast is often held on its final night.

A flag with three bars–red for the struggle for freedom, black for unity and green for the future– is sometimes displayed during the holiday.

Kwanzaa is based on the theory of Kawaida, which espouses that social revolutionary change for black America can be achieved by exposing blacks to their cultural heritage.

“In its most essential understanding and expression, Kwanzaa is a celebration of family, community and culture with each providing a context and commitment of common ground, cooperative practice and shared good,” Karenga wrote in his annual founder’s message.

“Kwanzaa is a celebration of the family which first forms us, names, nurtures and sustains us and teaches us upright and uplifting ways to understand and assert ourselves in the world.”

A poll commissioned by the National Retail Federation and conducted by BIGresearch Oct. 5-12 found that 1.9 percent of the 8,767 adults surveyed said they would celebrate Kwanzaa, compared to 91.2 percent for Christmas and 5.2 percent for Hanukkah. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 1 percent.

A similar poll conducted in 2009 found that 2.1 percent of the adults surveyed said they would celebrate Kwanzaa, compared to 95.3 percent for Christmas and 5.7 percent for Hanukkah.

By Steven Herbert | City News Service