COLUMBUS - Sunday marks the first day of Kwanzaa, a week dedicated to honoring African American culture and unity. Bakari Lumumba has celebrated the holiday for the past 15 years.

What You Need To Know

  • ​​Kwanzaa was created in 1966 to celebrate and honor African American people and their culture

  • Kwanzaa is from Dec. 26 - Jan. 1

  • The seven-day holiday honors seven different principles

“The black candle is representational of the foundational and the first principle of unity,” Lumumba said. “Without unity, none of the other principles are possible.” 

Christmas was never one of his favorite holidays. The gifts didn’t excite him, he says, but he always looked forward to spending the day with family. When he got to college, he learned about Kwanzaa, a holiday coined in 1966 to promote and celebrate Black people and their history.

“It's something that really allowed me to really celebrate who I was as a person of African descent, but also it focused on how we can improve our lives and of course that comes in the nguzo saba, the seven principles.” 

Umoja (unity), Kujichagulia (self-determination), Ujima (collective work and responsibility), Ujamaa (cooperative economics), Nia (purpose), Kuumba (creativity) and Imani (faith), make up the seven principles for the week-long holiday.  Each principle is represented by a black, green or red candle -- which gets lit one day at a time. Lumumba and his children get a jump start on the Dec. 26 commencment, celebrating Kwanzaa Eve with ice cream cones at United Dairy Farmers. 

Lumumba passes down Black history to his children, and he uses Kwanzaa as an educational tool. The kids help him set up the kinara — a seven-branched candleholder.  By helping with the daily lighting, learning Kwanzaa principles becomes fun and interactive.

“We have push-up contests to focus on self-determination, we have public speaking contests for oratory when we look at maybe creativity, and so on and so forth so we really find a way to make it fun and engaging,” Lumumba said. 

People all over the world celebrate Kwanzaa. Lumumba has used Zoom for celebrations everywhere from Beijing to Paris. He says the main point of the holiday is to come and work together for a better world.

“We need solidarity empowerment with Black people as a group, not just in our local state, community or city,” Lumumba said.