The time of year when African Americans and others in the United States celebrate Pan-African culture and history is once again upon us for 2023. If you're interested in learning more about the celebration and finding out what's happening in Buffalo and Western New York, we have all of the details for you below.

Kwanzaa is a non-religious, cultural celebration of black and African-American culture that is celebrated by millions around the world from December 26th to January 1st. Maulana Karenga created the Kwanzaa holiday in 1966 with the intent of it being honored as an additional cultural celebration of any religious practices that people have. The celebrations are based upon some festival traditions that come from various parts of the African continent.

The word Kwanzaa was derived from the Swahili language phrase matunda ya kwanza, which itself means first fruits. Many cultures in Southern Africa celebrate a first fruits festival in late December/ early January each year, which also coincides with the southern hemisphere's spring solstice. This helped to inspire Karenga to form this celebration.

The Buffalo Kwanzaa committee has a slew of activities scheduled to take place during the holiday, which occurs over seven days and begins on December 26th every year; the celebration seeks to highlight seven separate principles that are honored each day. Those principles, Umoja (Unity), Kujichagulia (Self-Determination), Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility), Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics), Nia (Purpose), Kuumba (Creativity), and Imani (Faith), which aim to speak to the best of what it means to be African and human in the fullest sense.

The roots of Kwanzaa, then, are in ancient and ongoing continental African first-fruits or first-harvest celebrations. They give Kwanzaa its model and shared values and practices, and its historical groundedness. Rooted in this ancient history and culture, Kwanzaa develops as a flourishing branch of the African cultural tree. It emerges in the context of African American life and struggle as a recreated and expanded ancient tradition. Thus, it bears special characteristics and meaning for African American people. But it is not only an African American holiday but also a Pan-African one. For it draws from the cultures of various African peoples, and is celebrated by millions of Africans throughout the world African community. Moreover, these various African peoples celebrate Kwanzaa because it speaks not only to African Americans in a special way, but also to Africans as a whole, in its stress on history, values, family, community and culture.
-Official Kwanzaa Website

The theme for this year's celebration is Defy The Lie, Embrace The Truth, and this year, the committee in Western New York will honor individuals who had a significant impact on Buffalo and Western New York in 2023.

You can find a full schedule of this year's festivities below.

Buffalo Kwanzaa 2023 Schedule of Activities

The Buffalo KWANZAA Organization has released its 2023 Kwanzaa Celebration schedule of activities, which begins on Tuesday, December 26, 2023, and concludes on Monday, January 1, 2024. This year's Kwanzaa celebration theme is: Defy The Lie, Embrace The Truth.

Gallery Credit: Ed Nice

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Buffalo Kwanzaa 2023 - Day 1 UMOJA

The Buffalo KWANZAA Organization hosted a Kwanzaa Night 1 event honoring Umoja (Unity) on Tuesday, December 26, 2023, at the Buffalo Academy for the Performing Arts High School in Buffalo, NY. 

Gallery Credit: Ed Nice

Buffalo Kwanzaa 2023 - Day 3 UJIMA

The Buffalo KWANZAA Organization hosted a Kwanzaa Night 3 event honoring UJIMA (Collective Work and Responsibility) on Thursday, December 28, 2023, at the Frank E. Merriweather Library in Buffalo, NY. 

Gallery Credit: Ed Nice

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