From Long Beach to Pasadena, Kwanzaa events set for next week

The Southland will celebrate Kwanzaa, a seven-day African cultural holiday that begins on Monday, Dec. 26, with multiple events across Los Angeles County — from Long Beach to Pasadena.

Kwanzaa was created in 1966 by Cal State Long Beach professor Maulana Karenga to commemorate African harvest festival traditions and emphasize different values every day of the week. Kwanza runs to Jan. 1.

“Kwanzaa is a unique and special season and celebration of our beautiful, sacred and soulful selves as African people, grounded in and profoundly respectful of our culture,” Karenga wrote in his annual founder’s message. “It is a unique and special pan-African time of remembrance, reflection, reaffirmation and recommitment to the good, the right and the possible.”

Each day of the festival has a focus — Umoja (unity), Kujichagulia (self-determination), Ujima (collective work and responsibility), Ujamaa (cooperative economics), Nia (purpose), Kuumba (creativity) and Imani (faith). It typically culminates in a feast on the sixth day.

Maulana Karenga, known as the creator of Kwanzaa, speaks at San Bernardino Valley College in 2019. (Courtesy Photo)

Karenga created Kwanzaa in the mid-1960s amid the Black Freedom Movement, which originated about two decades earlier. He also created Kwanza, he said in his message, within the supportive context of his organization, Us, which he described as a vanguard organization of the Black Freedom Movement that is also dedicated to cultural revolution, community self-determination, and radical and revolutionary social change.

The creation and values of Kwanzaa, first celebrated in 1966, reflect Karenga’s philosophy — Kawaida, a Swahili word meaning tradition or reason — as well as the concerns of the Us organization, the Black Freedom Movement, and the cultural and social changes needed at the time, he said in his message.

Kwanzaa was and remains an act of freedom, reaffirmation and resistance, Karenga said.

“It was and is a conscious and conscientious choice again to be our culturally-grounded selves,” Karenga wrote, “free ourselves from all forms of oppression and celebrate ourselves, and thus, reaffirm our unique and equally valid and valuable African cultural way of being human in the world.”

In Los Angeles, the 46th Annual Kwanzaa Gwardie Parade and Celebration will take place from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday in the Crenshaw District. The event is free to attend.

“The theme of this year’s celebration is Kila Kitu (Everything) KwanZaa,” said the festival description on Eventbrite, “and it will feature the history, origins, spirituality, and impact of KwanZaa on the diaspora in communities nationwide.”

The following day, the Pasadena chapter of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority will partner with the La Pintoresca Branch of the Pasadena Library for the groups’ 34th annual Kwanzaa celebration.

The virtual zoom event, which will take place from 11 a.m. to 12:15 p.m., will feature storytelling, music and poetry to engage both children and adults alike. You can sign up for the zoom event at

The LA South Chamber of Commerce and the nonprofit Los Angeles South Hope Foundation will host their Kwanzaa Celebration and Marketplace from 2 to 6 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 29, at the A.C. Bilbrew Library, 150 E. El Segundo Blvd.

The event will feature networking opportunities for entrepreneurs, small businesses and the community, as well as vendors selling cultural arts, crafts and other items.

In Pomona, the third-annual Kwanzaa Joy Celebration will return to an in-person event and will again feature reflections on each of the Seven Principles, artistic performances in music, dance and the spoken word, cultural food tasting, handcrafted gifts, and a local artisan marketplace, according to organizers.

That event, which costs $10, will take place at noon on the last day of Kwanzaa, Jan. 1, and the the Farm at Pomona Fairplex, 2118 N White Ave.

Organizers are asking for donations of culturally and historically relevant books to be donated to local public schools and the Alliance Community Cultural Center in Downtown Pomona to support equity in children’s educational experience. For ticket prices,

But perhaps the most signficant Kwanzaa celebrations — given their locations — will take place in Long Beach.

The African American Cultural Center of Long Beach, 4321 Atlantic Ave., will focus on the second and third days of Kwanzaa during this year’s activities. Music, dance and a children’s corner will also be part of the festivities.

On Tuesday, Dec. 27, the program will focus on Kujichagalia. It will include a candle-lighting, Baba the Storyteller, an African marketplace, jazz, west African drums and dance, and the Karamu feast. A $10 donation is suggested.

Wednesday’s focus will be Ujima — collective work and responsibility. The candlelighting ceremony will again begin the program, and there will also be a Nguzo Saba dance class.

The doors open at 5 p.m. each day, with the events starting at 6 p.m. For more information, call 562-787-0899 or go to

“(Kwanzaa) was a holiday and work of love and creativity,’ Karenga said in his founder’s message, that “I conceived and carefully constructed out of our own rich, ancient, ongoing, soulful and sacred history and liberating culture.”

Staff writers Ryan Carter and Chris Haire contributed to this report.

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