YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Kwanzaa has been celebrated in Youngstown for more than 40 years, but many in attendance at a kickoff event on Friday said focusing on the holiday’s seven principles is especially important this year.
Many people at New Bethel Baptist Church’s Kwanzaa event had a similar answer when asked what the holiday means to them.
“Family. Honestly, the main thing is just togetherness,” pastor Kenneth Simon said.
“It is where we celebrate our family,” dancer Marquett Samuels said.
“Kwanzaa means bringing my family together,” Zakiya Miller, daughter of program coordinator Lynette Miller said.
“Tonight is special for us because this is home for us, really,” dancer Ayasha Gordon said.
And home on Friday was filled with hundreds of people, kicking off the annual Kwanzaa celebration. The first night’s focus is always on the first principle of the holiday: Unity. This year, it means even more than usual.
“Everything that is going on across the nation. It is important we stand together in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in other communities that have felt the pains of the injustices that have been done to their communities,” Simon said.
“The nation is just in such a civil uproar at the moment. There seems to be so much division across the country,” Miller said.
So on Friday, families were helping one another find peace and strength as a community.
“To get people on one accord. Try to hash out any misunderstandings people have about how people feel and what people stand for,” Miller said. “Just try to put a positive light on a negative situation.”
And at the Kwanzaa event, there were a lot of positives. The youth dance group Harambe works to help kids reach their full potential.
“It shares culture, it promotes public speaking and a sense of self. It has developed so many young minds in the city. It is definitely a positive thing to be a part of,” Miller said.
People also had a chance to buy things from local vendors.
“We have to come together and support each other’s businesses because that is one of the principles of Kwanzaa,” drummer Omar Aslam said.
And those principles are what attendees said can change the future.
“Utilizing and embracing those principles helps us to empower ourselves as a people and therefore empower our community,” Simon said.
Those principles are unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith.