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Arts & Culture

Kwanzaa founder shares words of inspiration in Buffalo's virtual celebration

Buffalo Kwanzaa 2020
Kwanzaa founder Maulana Karenga (r) joins Buffalo's celebration by satellite Tuesday.

Wednesday is the fifth day of Kwanzaa, known as Nia or purpose. That’s what founder Maulana Karenga talked about Tuesday night in a satellite feed to the area’s virtual celebration.

Karenga has been in Buffalo several times for Kwanzaa, but he spoke by satellite because of the COVID pandemic. Many of his views haven’t changed much over the years, including the need for Black people to restore themselves and regain their sense of their own history before the Diaspora.

"Our Black freedom movement was a great contribution to advancing human freedom in this country and the world. That’s why all around the world and in this country, people bore our moral vocabulary and our moral vision and pose our struggle as a model to emulate: Native Americans, Latinos, Asians, women, White women, gays and lesbians, right? Older people, right? Disabled people," Karenga said.

Speaking to the fourth night, Ujamma or cooperative economics, he pushed for the value of education in improving communities and as a way for Black people to understand their history, their values and help restore their place in the world.

"Liberation is not only impossible, it’s unthinkable. What you can’t conceive, you can’t achieve. So education is fundamental, coming into consciousness," he said. "But you don’t do step by step, you do it all at once and you emphasize one. So we need education. We need mobilization. We need organization and we need confrontation. But we need it all at once."

In answer to a question, Karenga said Black people also must become involved in the environmental movement because of the bad air and water in so many communities.

"Pumping filthy water to the people in Flint (MI), but that’s going other places. We just haven’t identified it yet. You know that," he said. "So we have to be powerful. We have to organize and Black people have to get back into these organizations and rebuild an overarching movement. It’s good to say Black Lives Matter, but the question is: Do Black people matter to themselves enough to organize their own movement?"

Kwanzaa locally has grown into one of the largest of the celebrations anywhere. This year, COVID led to a virtual celebration, connecting the events in Buffalo, Rochester, Toronto and South Carolina and putting it all on streaming social media for visibility everywhere.

Arts & Culture maulana karengaKwanzaa
Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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