Kwanzaa celebrated at The Anacostia Community Museum


“Grandma Mims” played by Debra Mims is seated next to a Kwanzaa table holding cookies much like those her grandmother would have typically baked for holidays. (Rick Reese)

For many African American families, the holiday season wouldn’t be complete without Kwanzaa, the week-long secular celebration based on African harvest traditions. The Anacostia Community Museum, which has been observing Kwanzaa since shortly after the holiday was established in 1966-67, has one of the largest programs in the Metro area with multiple activities between the holiday’s beginning, the day after Christmas, and it ending, New Year’s Day.

3: Days of Kwanzaa observances including “Grandma’s Kwanzaa,” featuring storytelling; “Kwanzaa Arts, Family Fun,” which takes place at the museum; and “Kwanzaa: A Musical Celebration,” which takes place at Our Lady of Perpetual Help, a Catholic church in Southeast.

7: Candles are symbolically lit in the kinara, standing for the seven principles of Kwanzaa. They are umoja (unity), kujichagulia (self-determination), ujima (collective work and responsibility), ujamaa (cooperative economics), nia (purpose), kuumba (creativity) and imani (faith).

25: Dancers and drummers from Melvin Deal and the African Heritage Drummers and Dancers. Deal has been performing Kwanzaa celebrations since 1968 and is known as the area’s “father of African culture.”

30: Arts-and-crafts materials for kids to make traditional zawadi (gifts) and greeting cards during the “Kwanzaa Arts, Family Fun” program Dec. 29. Materials include colored paper, glitter, rubber stamps and sequins, with children adding their imagination.


Mainmouna Yossef sung as she played a Native-American hand drum at a hands-on musical workshop at the Anacostia Community Museum's Kwanzaa Workshop Series in 2009. (Mark Gail/THE WASHINGTON POST)

2008: The year the museum had an eight-month “Jubilee” exhibition about African American celebrations, including weddings, Mardi Gras, boules and Emancipation Day, and coincided with the inauguration of Barack Obama, in addition to the seven days of Kwanzaa.

The Kwanzaa series of three festivities will be Thursday through Dec. 29 at the Anacostia Community Museum,1901 Fort Place SE.

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