President of SHU Black Student Union on the Meaning of Kwanzaa

Guest blog post by Thanelie Bien-Aime, a senior biology major and president of the Black Student Union (BSU)

I didn’t grow up celebrating Kwanzaa and my first real experience with it was through BSU. Coming into college, I experienced a new sense of Black pride. Through Africana classes and organizations like the Black Student Union, I embraced the connectedness of Pan-Africanism and learned more about black culture, social justice, activism, and community service. Each year, the BSU would host a program to teach and celebrate Kwanzaa, and there would always be community members who had personal stories of the Holiday to share. For example Ghana Hylton, who works within Student Services at SHU, has assisted BSU for the past 2 years to facilitate engaging and informative content. Our main goal is not only to teach the history of the holiday but for people, especially those of African descent, to understand why it is relevant to them.

Kwanzaa’s 7 principles are Umoja (Unity), Kujichagulia (Self-Determination), Ujima (Collective Work), Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics), Nia (Purpose), Kuumba (Creativity), and Imani (Faith). All of these principles are significant to my various roles; health advocate, performing artist, student leader, community member, and the list goes on. Kwanzaa empowers my identity and emphasizes my connection to the world. You might not celebrate Kwanzaa with all of the traditional customs or symbols but celebrating can be as simple as allowing the principles to positively change you, your relationships, and your work. Like many holidays, it’s a time that emphasizes reflection, giving, family, community, and culture.
I would suggest taking a look at BSU’s Instagram page @setonhallbsu. We have uploaded Ghana’s Kwanzaa 101 video and our saved IG Live program from earlier this month. We’ll also continue sharing some more Kwanzaa content.

Kwanzaa will begin on Saturday, December 26, 2020 and end on Friday, January 1, 2021. 

For Africana Studies databases, books, and resources, please visit the SHU Libraries Africana Studies Research Guide.

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