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In Hopkinsville, Organizers of Kwanzaa Celebration Seek to Inspire Local Youth


  A celebration of the Afro-centric holiday, Kwanzaa, is coming back to Hopkinsville for the second year.

Activities begin on Dec. 26 with a Kwanzaa Festival at the Old Christian County Middle School, and run through Jan. 1.

  The community celebration, which is open to people of all races and cultures, started in Hopkinsville last year when Markeeta Wilkerson decided her city needed a boost.

Wilkerson noticed a lack of pride and hope in the youth, and said she thought a Kwanzaa celebration, like one she and her college friends used to experience, would help.

"I saw a lot of younger people who needed to understand and celebrate their excellence," Wilkerson said.

Kwanzaa, at its core, is a non-religious celebration of community and culture. The name comes from the Swahili phrase "matunda ya kwanza," which translates to "first fruits of the harvest". It's a seven day holiday, with each day representing a different principle, which also derive from swahili.

Umoja (Unity) starts the holiday, followed by kujichagulia (self-determination), ujimaa (collective work and responsibility), ujamaa (cooperative economics), nia (purpose), kuumba (creativity) and Imani (faith).

Each day comes with a lighting of the kinara, which is similar to a menorah, but with seven candles instead of eight. Three of the candles are red, three are green, and a black candle is in the center. These symbolize the blood, land, and people of Africa.

This may seem like a lot to display and explain to people, but Wilkerson said everything went pretty quickly and people were pretty receptive at last year's celebration in Hopkinsville. 

"It was such a blesssing because the event spaces were free. We were all over the city." Wilkerson said. "Then people came in and had sponsored nights for the food, and that was free."

Last year's activities included live art-making, a night where people made vision boards, and instruments all the children could play with.

The vision boards were especially powerful because they give children worthwhile goals to accomplish.

Zirconia Alleyne, who helped Wilkerson organize the event, had her board come true.

"I remember putting travel and prosperity as far as finances, and there was one piece about business," Alleyne said.

A successful year later, Alleyne can truly say it helped.

This year, they're organizing a Black business showcase to help more people's goals come to fruition through spreading information on opportunities and groups meant to help.

"Because there are so many small organizations out there, Black organizations, but nobody knows what the other is doing. So this is our segue into, 'Okay, let's come together. So that we can build together for the betterment of our youth,'" Wilkerson said.

The organized events are also helping the education of Kwanzaa in Hopkinsville outside of holiday festivities. Wilkerson also lent her set-up to the city's Fire-Transportation Museum to help educate school children.

There, children can also learn through items Museums of Hopkinsville Director of Programs and Exhibits Janet Bravard can explain.

"When we have programs at the Museums of Hopkinsville, we tell the children about Kwanzaa," Bravard said, while explaining the use of a Kinara and the meanings of the candles and each principle.

Those organizing this year's Kwanzaa celebration in Christian County hope the principles and events can help inspire hope in the local youth.

This story was originally published on WKYU.

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