Residents celebrate 40 years of Kwanzaa in the V.I.

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Virgin Islanders have been observing Kwanzaa for 40 years, honoring their African heritage and their connections to family, history and culture.

The first night of Kwanzaa was celebrated Thursday in Tutu with music by EchoPeople, Voices of Love and Isis Collier, good food and Kwanzaa activities.

Events continue throughout the week.

The weeklong cultural celebration, observed from Dec. 26 to Jan. 1 each year, was created in 1966 by scholar and social activist Maulana Karenga.

During the seven days of Kwanzaa, a different principle is taught each day. Kwanzaa celebrants light a candle each day to commemorate the value of the day, pour libations in remembrance of ancestors, hold feasts and exchange gifts.

The name Kwanzaa is derived from the Swahili phrase "matunda ya kwanzaa," which means "first fruits of the harvest."

The seven principles of Kwanzaa are:

- Umoja (Unity).

- Kujichagulia (Self-determination).

- Ujima (Collective work and responsibility).

- Ujamaa (Cooperative economics).

- Nia (Purpose).

- Kuumba (Creativity).

- Imani (Faith).

University of the Virgin Islands V.I. Caribbean Cultural Center Director Chenzira Davis Kahina said the celebration of Kwanzaa is rooted in the African tradition of celebrating the first fruits of the harvest.

It is a time to honor ancestors and heros, she said.

"Kwanzaa has been celebrated for more than 40 years in the Virgin Islands and is linked to the rich cultural heritage, traditions and annual festival celebrations," Kahina said.

She said the "Nguzo Saba" or seven principles, of creativity, faith, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, self-determination and unity have always been apart of V.I. culture, history and living.

"Kwanzaa celebrates family, community, nation and positive aspects of Afraka - her lands, her histories, her resources and her people," she said.

Kwanzaa 2013-2014 Schedule

Friday - Kujichagulia (Self-determination)

- St. Thomas, 7 p.m., Arian's Restaurant. Pan-Afrikan Support Group and Environmental Rangers present their annual Kwanzaa Gathering and Educational Program.

Saturday - Ujima (Collective work and responsibility)

- 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., Kwanzaa Radio Program on WUVI AM 1090, presented by KWANZAA365 and Sankofa Saturdays Youth Cultural Education Initiative.

Sunday - Ujamaa (Cooperative economics)

- St. Thomas, 4:30 p.m., St. Thomas Association of Road Runners 7 Principles Run (4.3 miles) at the University of the Virgin Islands' soccer field. Registration will begin at 3:30 p.m. Admission is $3 for adults, $1 for youth under 18 and $2 for STAR members. Call Roy Watlington at 777-8183.

- St. Thomas, 10 a.m. We Grow Food Farmer's Market at the Bordeaux Farmers & Agricultural Grounds. A Kwanzaa program will start at 2 p.m. highlighting the principle of Ujamaa with poetry, youth activities, music and other cultural education and entertainment. Farmers produce, arts, crafts, wholesome meals and refreshments will be available in the African Marketplace.

Monday - Nia (Purpose)

- 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. Kwanzaa Radio Program on WUVI AM 1090.

Tuesday - Kuumba (Creativity)

- St. Thomas, the Blake Family hosts sunrise and sunset Hatha Yoga at Brewers Beach.

Wednesday - Imani (Faith)

- St. Thomas, noon, United Communities Kwanzaa Potluck at Brewers Beach. Bring a natural dish or seasonal refreshment and a cultural or literary gift for the Kwanzaa Zawadi Exchange.

- St. Croix, noon, Frederiksted waterfront, Kwanzaa Observance, Candle Lighting & Meditation celebrating principle of faith with community.

- Contact reporter Aldeth Lewin at 714-9111 or email

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