Columbia Kwanzaa

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COLUMBIA - Columbia residents are getting the chance to celebrate Kwanzaa a bit early this year. The Columbia Department of Parks and Recreation hosted its annual City Kwanzaa Celebration on Saturday from 2-5 p.m.

Jay Bradley, Parks and Recreation Department recreations specialist, "It's been going on since 1993. My predecessor, Bill Thompson, was actually into that for quite a while until he retired. But it's just an event to get the citizens of Columbia out together celebrate Kwanzaa."

Kwazaa is a week-long African-American holiday that runs from Dec. 26 to Jan. 1. It was created in 1966 by Dr. Ronald "Maulana" Karenga.

There will be music, food and dancing at the event, as well as a business expo for local black-owned businesses. There will also be a performance by the City-Wide Flag Line along with a candle lighting ceremony celebrating the seven principles of Kwanzaa: Umoja (Unity), Kujichagulia (Self Determination), Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility), Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics), Nia (Purpose), Kuumba (Creativity), and Imani (Faith).

Bradley said he's seen many of those principles reflected in the community as he's been organizing the event. 

"I would say the biggest part is just the unity of everybody working together, coming together for a common goal or a common event, and just bringing each other together and sharing and celebrating Kwanzaa," he said.

Cameron Cross, is Bradley's supervisor, said he believes the seven principles developed by Karenga are common sense philosophies anyone can benefit from.

"I don't remember exactly where he was from, but he saw a lot of issues in the African-American community back then," Cross said. "He really wanted to see some progression so he came up with those principles. Some of them, purpose, faith and cooperative economics and unity, things of that nature. Those principles are things any community, any family can use to be successful and prosper."

Columbia resident Nia Imani led the Kwanzaa celebration at the Progressive Missionary Baptist Church, and says anyone can practice it.

"It started as a cultural holiday because there are so many religions. So, many choices for people to make. We don't want to feel, or make anybody feel, like they could be left out," she said.

For Bradley, who's only been working as a recreations specialist for little over a month, it was seeing the passion his predecessor Thompson had for the holiday that made him want to get involved.

"Just the energy, passion, and dedication that he spoke about when he talked about the Kwanzaa celebration, that really made me kind of want to come on and really kind of pick up where he left off," Bradley said.

Imani says getting to know to culture and history behind Kwanzaa is important.

"What's important to me is the sharing of the history and the sharing of culture," she said. "It's kind of knowing yourself better if you learn your own history. And then, history on a broader level. Because I say if you don't know your history, you are doom to repeat it."