When Gimbu Kali, community activist and small business owner, received word that he was tapped to become a Bolozi Wazee/Shule Ya Watoto, the Council of Elders who puts on the annual Kwanzaa observance along with Malcolm X College, he was stunned to say the least.
“I was contacted by one of the elders who asked me to attend a Council of Elders’ meeting,” Kali said. “I thought they’d made a mistake when they told me that I was selected to become an Elder. Almost all of the councilman are about 20 years my senior. I felt funny about being inducted and was humbled none-the-less.”
The minimum age requirement that someone can be “enstooled” or receive one of the highest honors in recognition of outstanding leadership and service is, 56.
“I’m 56 and they felt I was qualified because of my 35 plus years of community activism and that I wouldn’t require the extensive training necessary for the role.” said Gimbu, who, following the induction ceremony will take his place amongst the Council of Elders.
The annual Kwanzaa event, the largest known seven-day celebration in the country, is held publicly at Malcolm X College, 1900 West Van Buren Street Chicago, and takes place from 9 a.m. – 6 p.m., Dec. 26, 2012 – Jan. 1, 2013.
Baba Nubian Malik, one of the Kwanzaa event organizers said, “Those who attend are in store for a cultural awakening, lively entertainment and a wealth of cultural knowledge and an African market second to none.”
Items available for purchase include food, clothing, books by African and American authors, art, handmade items, soaps and various other wares.
Attracting nearly 2,000 participants last year, the event remains free and open to the public. The Kwanzaa Ceremony begins at noon each day and at 2 p.m. on Sunday, starting with the Kwanzaa Ritual, explanation of the Kwanzaa symbols and principles, and ends with the cultural edutainment and expressions.
The event serves as a link between the past and present and guardians of the culture, tradition, and history of the African people as a way to increase and expand community participation in the practice and understanding of the Kwanzaa ceremony and celebration.
“The atmosphere at our Kwanzaa celebration is very loving and family oriented,” said Malik. “As a committee, we work very hard to ensure that as well as maintain the cultural integrity.”
Created by Dr. Maulana Karenga, a professor of black studies, based on the year-end harvest festivals that have taken place throughout Africa for thousands of years, Kwanzaa is a celebration that honors the values of ancient African cultures and inspires African Americans who are working towards progress.
Each of the seven days of celebration, honors seven principles called Nguzo Saba, believed to have been key to building strong, productive families and communities in Africa. During Kwanzaa, celebrants greet each other with “Habari gani,” or “What’s the news?” The principles of Kwanzaa form the answers:
• The Umoja principle instructs that each member of the family and by extension, the community, is constituted by a web of interpersonal relationships. The health and possibilities of the family and community, therefore, is dependent upon the quality of relationship within the family and community.
• Kujichagulia says African Americans, like all people, need shared cultural values, symbols, rituals, and practices in order to give their families and children meaning and value, identity and community.
• Ujima teaches each family member to recognize that their own well-being is derived from their family and their community’s well-being;
• Ujamaa empowers families and communities to come together around their collective economic interest.
• Nia instructs each family member to see him or herself as linked to the larger project of nation building.
• Kuumba demands continuous improvement in personal and family and social matters.
• Imani teaches personal and collective efficacy.