Years ago, when I was a little girl, African American culture, my culture and heritage, wasn’t something that was celebrated in America. Today, I enjoy studying, reading, collecting, and celebrating any and everything about African and African American culture and history. My house is filled with African art, musical instruments, cloth, masks, statutes, and carvings. My kitchen has pots, baskets, and utensils from Africa in it. I love preparing African food, especially at the end of December for Kwanzaa celebrations.
Kwanzaa, which also means “first fruits” or “first harvest,” is an African American cultural holiday practiced in various cultures in Africa. These cultural holidays are in celebration of a good harvest and are similar to our Thanksgiving holiday.
Kwanzaa was created by Dr. Maulana Ron Karenga (left) in 1966. It’s celebrated from December 26 through January 1. Dr. Karenga created seven principles, one for each day, to remind Africans and African Americans about their struggle for freedom and their heritage.
I’ve hosted many Kwanzaa celebrations for family and friends on January 1st, the last day of the holiday. At the end of the celebration, we remember our ancestors. Then we join hands and say “harambee,” which means “all pull together.”
When I first started writing “The Seven Spools of Thread,” I thought I would create an original African folktale. As I started working on the story, I thought it would fun to incorporate the Kwanzaa principles into the story, along with a craft featuring Kente cloth.
As the story developed, it became about working together in love as a family, giving back to your community, and celebrating your culture. That’s what I love about writing! You never know where the journey will take you when you put the first few words on a page.
Here are some Kwanzaa books I’ve enjoyed and collected over the years. Harambee!
1. It’s Kwanzaa Time!
By Linda and Clay Goss
Award-winning artists come together to illustrate the Goss’ book that explains Kwanzaa. From the seven foundational principles of the holiday to recipes, stories and games, this book has it all for Kwanzaa celebrators, lovers and learners.
2. The Gifts of Kwanzaa
Synthia Saint James
A great book for learning the history and origins of Kwanzaa. Saint James uses the voice of a child narrator to explain Kwanzaa concepts in a simple and engaging manner.
3. My First Kwanzaa Book
By Deborah M. Newton Chocolate
This beautifully illustrated story celebrates the notions of family and cultural heritage as it explains traditional aspects of Kwanzaa. Great for a family read or a school library, as it shines a light on community involvement.
4. The Children’s Book of Kwanzaa: A Guide to Celebrating the Holiday
By Dolores Johnson
What is Kwanzaa? How did it start? What are some things that families do during Kwanzaa? Johnson’s book is essentially a beginner’s guide to the holiday, accompanied by bold and captivating illustrations. The book finishes with activities, recipes and ideas for young readers to get the most out of Kwanzaa celebrations.
5. Kwanzaa Karamu: Cooking and Crafts for a Kwanzaa Feast
By April A. Brady
Sometimes, the best way to learn about an event is to partake in the traditions, rituals and activities. That rings true in Brady’s well-organized “Kwanzaa Karamu,” which includes recipes, crafts and even a Swahili glossary!
For more information about Angela, visit her website: http://www.medearis.com/.
For more information about Kwanzaa, visit: The Official Kwanzaa Website.
Angela Shelf Medearis, an award-winning children’s book and cookbook author, is the founder and president of Book Boosters, Inc. and owner of Diva Productions, Inc.. She's also the Executive Producer and host of The Kitchen Diva!, television cooking show. Her program encourages families to reconnect and save money by getting back into the kitchen and around the dinner table. She is married and resides in Austin, Texas.