Kwanzaa kicks off with motorcade, livestreamed events

The seven-day African American festival of Kwanzaa began today with many celebrations in Los Angeles County canceled, altered or moved online because of restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic.

The event known for the past 43 years as the Kwanzaa Gwaride Parade in South Los Angeles was billed as a motorcade, with participants asked to wear a mask and social distance. The motorcade began at 11 a.m. from the intersection of Adams and Crenshaw boulevards.

The Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach held a free virtual Kwanzaa event Saturday morning featuring Baba the Storyteller, one of the few recognized U.S.-born practitioners of the ancient West African storytelling craft known as Jaliyaa, presenting the principles and practices of Kwanzaa.

An Aquarium Pacific Pals puppet was the master of ceremonies. The family event is viewable on-demand.

An online Kwanzaa Kuumba Makers Festival organized by the California African American Museum was streaming Saturday afternoon. The recorded family workshop celebrating Kwanzaa's Sixth Principle, Kuumba (Creativity), consists of instruction from artists in making a memory book and a decoupage workshop.

Required reservations were available at

The Robey Theatre Company's virtual Kwanzaa celebration featuring musical and comedy performances can be seen on its YouTube page,

The Robey Theatre Company is an award-winning, African American theatre arts organization based at the Los Angeles Theatre Center in downtown Los Angeles. It was founded in 1994 by actors Danny Glover and Ben Guillory and named after renowned singer, actor and activist Paul "Robey" Robeson.

A virtual celebration including music and stories will be streamed from 11 a.m.-noon Wednesday on the Facebook page of the Pasadena Public Library's La Pintoresca Branch.

A child's craft will be available for curbside pickup beginning Monday at the library at 1355 N. Raymond Ave.

This year's Kwanzaa theme, "Kwanzaa and the Well-Being of the World: Living and Uplifting the Seven Principles," seeks "to call rightful attentiveness to the immediate and urgent need to be actively concerned and caring about the well-being of the world," Kwanzaa creator Maulana Karenga wrote in his annual founder's message.

Kwanzaa was created in 1966 by Karenga, now chair of Africana Studies at Cal State Long Beach, in what he called "an audacious act of self-determination."

Karenga described Kwanzaa in the 2020 founder's message as "a special season and celebration of our sacred and expansive selves as African people" and "a unique pan-African time of remembrance, reflection, reaffirmation, and recommitment."

"It is a special and unique time to remember and honor our ancestors; to reflect on what it means to be African and human in the most expansive and meaningful sense; and to reaffirm the sacred beauty and goodness of ourselves and the rightfulness of our relentless struggle to be ourselves and free ourselves and contribute to an ever-expanding realm of freedom, justice and caring in the world,"  Karenga wrote.

Kwanzaa's focus is the "Nguzo Saba," the Seven Principles -- Unity, Self-determination, Collective work and responsibility, Cooperative Economics, Purpose, Creativity and Faith.

The seven symbols of Kwanzaa are the Kinara (candleholder), Mishumaa Saba (seven candles), Mkeka (mat), Mazao (crops), Muhindi (ears of corn), Kikombe Cha Umoja (a unity cup) and Zawadi (gifts).

During the week, a candelabrum called a Kinara is lit, and ears of corn representing each child in the family are placed on a traditional straw mat.

African foods such as millet, spiced pepper balls and rice are often served. Some people fast during the holiday, and a feast is often held on its final night.

A flag with three bars -- red for the struggle for freedom, black for unity and green for the future -- is sometimes displayed during the holiday.

Kwanzaa is based on the theory of Kawaida, which espouses that social revolutionary change for Black America can be achieved by exposing Black people to their cultural heritage.

"As families, friends, and communities light the Kinara over the next seven days, our nation honors the indelible contributions of African Americans to the strength and vitality of the United States," President Donald Trump said in his Kwanzaa message.

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