Region 8 Celebrates Kwanzaa

December 28, 2003 -- Posted at 8:22 p.m. CST

POPLAR BLUFF--Kwanzaa: it is a celebration of African American history and culture. That you may already know. What you may not know is that the seven-day holiday is based on seven principles that all of us can learn from.

This year's Kwanzaa celebration was held at the Wheatley School on Garfield Street in Poplar Bluff. The three day event hosted more than 100 members of the community. Olivia Wallace was at the celebration on Sunday.
"It's history and it's culture that I wanted to bring my daughter and my grandson to learn about African American celebration," said Olivia Wallace.
Her grandson Franklin Wallace was excited to be at the event.
"I came here to celebrate Kwanzaa because it is an African American holiday and I'm an African American," said Franklin Wallace.

It was important for fourteen-year-old Tyler George to be at the festivities. He came with his grandmother and cousins.

"I want to show respect to my African natives," said George, "and be with my family."
Part of the Kwanzaa celebration is learning about the African-American heritage, and folks here in Poplar Bluff say they've learned a lot.
"We've learned some pretty hard names that we are learning to pronounce," laughed Olivia Wallace, with her grandson nodding in agreement.
Those hard names are the Swahili translation of the seven principles in Kwanzaa.
Rex Rattler was the master of ceremonies for the three day event. He said that Kwanzaa is based on the activities surrounding the traditional African celebration of the harvest of the first crops. The seven day holiday was created by Dr. Maulana Karenga in 1966, and is traditionally celebrated from December 26 to January 1.
"The seven principles are umoja for unity, kujichagulia for self-determination, ujima for collective work and responsibility, ujamma for cooperative economics, nia for purpose, kuumba for creativity and then climaxing with imani, and that is faith," said Rattler.
The celebration of Kwanzaa in Poplar Bluff started as just one evening in 1994, and has now grown to a three day celebration.
"We're hoping that we'll be able to touch people in a positive way, even on a community level so we can empower them to be able to go out and do some positive things now," said Rattler.

Folks in the audience were able to check out African American artifacts, enjoy cultural music, listen to speeches and also feast on a big dinner. But not everyone was easily impressed...well, at least at first.

"I thought it was kind of weird at first, then I started listening to it a little bit more and it got a little bit better," laughed George.