Kwanzaa: The River City celebrates African American culture and heritage

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – After Christmas passes, the holiday that means “the first fruits” in Swahili will begin.

One of the producers of the Community Kwanzaa Celebration kicked off this year’s holiday at the Ritz Theatre and said this is the only public Kwanzaa celebration in the River City.

“It celebrates bringing the community together in a very specific way to solve its own problems and to progress together,” said producer Brenda Frinks.

Kwanzaa was originally started by Dr. Maulana Karenga back in the 1960s following riots as a way to bring African Americans together by remembering their culture.

This holiday takes place from Dec. 26 through Jan. 1 and during that time seven principles are reflected:

  • Umoja, which means unity
  • Kujichagulia, meaning self-determination
  • Ujima is for collective work and responsibility
  • Ujamaa stands for cooperative economics
  • Nia means purpose
  • Kuumba is for creativity
  • Imani is faith

In addition to this, there’s a traditional table display set up each year featuring several items of importance including...

“Mazao which is the crops, they’re symbolic of harvest celebrations around the world,” said Frinks. “There’s the Mkeka which is the mat. This is symbolic of the traditions and the history. As I said, the kinara the candleholder. The Muhindi which will be the corn that will be on that and that represents the children.”

In addition to these symbols, there is also the unity cup, Zawadi -- which are homemade gifts by family members, books for knowledge, black, green, and red candles.

“It’s important that we pass down traditions because as a race of African Americans much of our history was stripped away when we came to this land,” said Frinks.

Finks said it’s important to celebrate Kwanzaa every year as a recommitment to African American ancestry.

“It’s kind of like the resolution where you take times with each one of those principles that we mentioned and give it thought and give it some reverence,” Finks said. “What has gone on in the past, what is going on now in my life, and what I’d like to see in the future.”

The Ritz Theatre has been hosting this community celebration for more than 25 years, an effort to reconnect African Americans to where they originally came from.

Frinks breaks down every principle and its specific purpose in the video below:

Brenda Frinks, one of the producers of the Community Kwanzaa Celebration, breaks down the principles of Kwanzaa.