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What Is Kwanzaa?


Tech. Sgt. Jennifer Myers (above), 66th Air Base Wing noncommissioned officer in charge of the Military Equal Opportunity office, demonstrates a Kwanzaa ritual where she lights a candle in the Kinara.

Kwanzaa is a seven-day holiday that celebrates the origins of the African American. It strives to commemorate those things that help the African American community remain strong. Kwanzaa was born out of the civil rights movement and its inventor, Ron Karenga, at first wanted to give African Americans an opportunity to celebrate a holiday not invented by the dominant culture.

In 2004, BIG Research conducted a marketing survey in the United States for the National Retail Foundation, which found that 1.6 percent of those surveyed planned to celebrate Kwanzaa. If generalized to the US population as a whole, this would imply that around 4.7 million Americans planned to celebrate Kwanzaa in that year.

In a 2006 speech, Ron Karenga asserted that 28 million people celebrate Kwanzaa. He has always maintained it is celebrated all over the world. Lee D. Baker puts the number at 12 million; the African American Cultural Center claims 30 million.

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