Dealové Graham
Stephen Gross/The Anniston Star

Dealové Graham owns Endless Design Braiding in Anniston. Interested in hairstyling from a young age, she got her cosmetology license in her home state of New York before moving down south. On Thursday, Graham will host “Introducing Kwanzaa, the Fourth Annual Celebration” at the Anniston City Meeting Center from 6-8 p.m. The event is free to attend. There will be African dance performances, live reggae music, and African and Caribbean cuisine. David Roberts will perform spoken word. Vendors will sell jewelry and other items. Full meals will be available for $15.

What is Kwanzaa?

Kwanzaa is an African American culture holiday. A lot of people get it mixed up as the “African American Christmas,” but it is not a religious holiday at all; many people celebrate Christmas and Kwanzaa.

Kwanzaa was originated in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga. He came up with it. The roots of the holiday are in several parts of Africa.

The principles of the holiday are in Swahili: umoja (unity), ujima (collective work), kujichagulia (self-determination), ujamaa (cooperative economics), nia (purpose), kuumba (creativity), imani (faith).

Why was Kwanzaa created?

Dr. Karenga created Kwanzaa so that we could reflect on who we are, why we are here and what we want to do in life. “Family unity is what it is really all about,” said Gloria Bullock, Graham’s mother. “I am the one who got her started on Kwanzaa. I said, ‘My grandchildren are of color, they need to know their heritage, and so does everybody else.’”

What happens on a night of Kwanzaa?

On the first night of Kwanzaa, you will say, “Habari gani,” which means “What is the news?” You are asking what the principle for today is.

The first day of Kwanzaa is today, and today’s principle is umoja, which means “unity.” You will light the first candle, the black candle in the middle of the kinara (a candleholder used during Kwanzaa that holds seven candles: three red, three green and one black). All the other candles will be lit from the black candle on the other nights. You will speak about unity and do things that unify us.

The principle for the second night of Kwanzaa is kujichagulia, which means “self-determination.” You will light a red candle from the black candle. Each day, you will talk about the day’s principle, and do some type of arts and crafts, read our history and learn about our past. If you do not know your past, you will not know where you are going.

What happens on the last night of Kwanzaa?

The last principle is imani, which means “faith.” On the last night, we talk about all the principles of Kwanzaa, all the candles are lit and we have a feast and there is gift-giving. We will feast like it is Thanksgiving. The gifts we exchange are homemade; you cannot run out to the store and buy something to give.

What is the most meaningful night of Kwanzaa to you?

The second night: self-determination. If I see it, I can do it. If I feel it, I can do it. If God gives me the vision, I can do it.

Why are you hosting this event for the community?

I have been doing it for four years now. I felt that the principles of Kwanzaa are needed by the community.

What are you passionate about?

Helping people find out who they are and helping them find their gifts. I truly believe that God gave you everything you need to succeed. Find your gift, and it is a guaranteed success. I want to live my life in a way that if I die, people can say, “I know this woman. She did it; I can do it, too.”

Faith Dorn is a freelance writer in Anniston. Contact her at faith.h.dorn@gmail.com.