Children to celebrate Kwanzaa Monday at museum |

Children to celebrate Kwanzaa Monday at museum

by Maggie O'Neill

A deep-rooted African celebration that has branched throughout the world will be celebrated Monday at the Children’s Museum of Northern Nevada in Carson City.

Fran Echols, a Reno artist who has worked extensively at children’s museums in the East, is hosting a Kwanzaa celebration from 1-3 p.m.

“I would want people to know that Kwanzaa didn’t take the place of Christmas,” the Memphis-native said. “Rather, Kwanzaa builds community and is more of a time of sharing and creating together. It’s largely a time for people to get to know more about others and, perhaps, more about themselves.”

Kwanzaa, which means “first fruits” in Swahili, is a long-standing harvest celebration carried out in many African countries. It is celebrated from Dec. 26 to Jan. 1.

At Monday’s Kwanzaa celebration, children will make gifts, called Zawadi, play cultural games, dress in Kwanzaa costumes and watch videos.

“As far as I know, nothing like this has been done in Carson City,” said Ken Beaton, Children’s Museum director. “I think this is the first.”

According to Echols, Kwanzaa is celebrated as a way to close out the year. Village members would travel by foot or by animal to visit relatives and friends in nearby towns, Echols said.

“At those times, the babies that were born that year were named and marriages were sealed and performed.”

The deceased would be buried and the formal activity of the community was settled. That same feeling of community is the sentiment of Kwanzaa.

“It is nonreligious celebration and you can teach it in the schools and get, I guess, similar results that religion classes can bring,” she said.

Kwanzaa came to the United States in the 1960s when a Dr. Maulana Kerenga from the Los Angeles/Oakland area looked for a tie to unite the various African American races.

He took the African concept of Kwanzaa and made it seven days long with a principle for one of each of seven days of the celebration.

Echols heard Kerenga speak recently at a museum in Memphis.

“He said it blew him away that Kwanzaa became what it did,” Echols said. “He said he was trying to give his children a celebration that was purely African and not have his children suffer the loss of not having toys at Christmas.”

She said African Americans boycotted stores during the Christmas holidays in the mid- to late-1960s and Kwanzaa became an alternate way to celebrate.

“Kwanzaa really fosters giving the gifts of the spirit, like your time, or an heirloom photograph or a gift made out of wood.”

Contact reporter Maggie O’Neill at mo’ or 881-1219.


What: Kwanzaa celebration

When: 1-3 p.m. Monday

Where: Children’s museum, 813 N. Carson St., Carson City

Call: 884-2226.

Cost: 2 and under, free; $3 for ages 3-13; adults, $5.

seven principles of Kwanzaa

The seven principles of Kwanzaa are: unity, umoja; self-determination, kujichagulia; collective work and responsibility, ujima; cooperative economics, ujamaa; purpose, nia; creativity, kuumba and faith, imani. The principles are celebrated, one on each day, throughout the seven days of Kwanzaa.