BU Today

Campus Life

Kwanzaa: Unity, Family, Community

UMOJA holds holiday celebration on Sunday, December 9

Click on the slide show above to learn more about Kwanzaa.


Soul food will be served to the sounds of gospel music at the GSU’s Metcalf Ballroom on Sunday, December 9, as UMOJA, BU’s Black Student Union, hosts its annual Kwanzaa celebration. The goal is to bring people together, according to group president Francesca Okolie (CAS’08), because umoja means unity in Swahili, and Kwanzaa offers an ideal opportunity at a busy time of year.

“It’s a perfect time to bring people from all over campus together after they have become a little disconnected right before finals,” she says. “Our main focus is not necessarily to get people to celebrate the holiday as much as to get people to understand the principles behind it and clear up any misconceptions.”

Kwanzaa itself is not until the week beginning December 26, when the traditional African values of family, community, responsibility, commerce, and self-improvement are celebrated. Okolie says that Kwanzaa is not an African holiday, however, but an African-American celebration focused on culture.

“People sometimes say there is no sense of history or culture with people who were formerly slaves,” she says. “But there is a rich tradition and culture, and there is much to love and value and appreciate about black people here in the United States. To me, Kwanzaa lets me do that.”
Kwanzaa, which runs from December 26 through January 1, is not a religious holiday and is not meant to be a substitute for winter celebrations such as Christmas, Hanukkah or Ramadan. “It is a time for African-Americans to reaffirm their ancestry and culture,” Okolie says.

UMOJA’s Kwanzaa dinner celebration will take place from 6 to 9 p.m. on Monday, December 10, in the Metcalf Ballroom in the George Sherman Union. The event will feature performances from an African dance group and African-American spirituals performed by the Inner Strength Gospel Choir. Tickets are $3, part of a UMOJA effort to raise money for the Boston Living Center, a community resource center for people with HIV and AIDS. The event is open to the public. All-black attire is requested.

Edward A. Brown can be reached at ebrown@bu.edu.