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Fairview man celebrates Kwanzaa, not Christmas

Latif Bossman of Fairview didn’t celebrate Christmas this year, but today he begins his celebration of Kwanzaa, which runs through Jan. 30.

“Kwanzaa is a community-based celebration that I take part in to remember everything that it took to get to the point that our families and community have come to at the end of the year,” he said.

Tomorrow, Bossman, his wife, Resa, and their four teenage children will head over to the New Columbia Community Education Center on North Trenton for a three-hour Kwanzaa celebration that includes drumming, food, gifts and other family activities, said Shafia Monroe, director of The International Center for Traditional Childbearing, one of the event’s sponsors. The Kwanzaa celebration runs from 3-6 p.m. and is free to the public.

Kwanzaa is an African-American cultural holiday conceived and developed by Dr. Maulana Ron Karenga, and first celebrated on Dec. 26, 1966.

Kwanzaa is rooted in harvest celebrations Karenga observed being practiced in African cultures, and serves as connection for American people of African descent to their original roots.

“Kwanzaa had agricultural aspects in the past, and in the future and present sense it is going to work every day, helping your community by volunteering and helping,” Bossman said. “There has to be a faith and a purpose to everything we do and you have to be self-determined to help yourself, one of the principles of Kwanzaa.”

The seven principles of Kwanza include unity (Umoja), self-determination (Kujichagulia), collective work and responsibility (Ujima), cooperative economics (Ujamaa), purpose (Nia), creativity (Kuumba) and faith (Imani).

Monroe said she and her husband, Mikal Shabazz, celebrate Kwanzaa to acknowledge their rich history.

“We are African and American at the same time with ties to the African continent,” she said. “Our colors are red, green and black. Black for the African people, red for all the blood that was lost when we were dragged to the U.S. and lives were lost, and green for hope and for Mother Africa.”

Each day of Kwanzaa has different rituals ending on the last day with gifts, usually hand-made, given out at a big party.

“It might be cookies baked for auntie, or dish towels, but we all come together and each child recites a lesson from Kwanzaa, what does it mean to you, and we pass a unity cup around and each take a sip,” Monroe said.

Bossman, 37, said he’s celebrated Kwanzaa since he was a child, but probably won’t have time to make his own gifts.

“When they hand out presents it’s usually something they make themselves and put their effort and love in,” he said. “But at times I end up going to the store and usually get things most needed like clothes or shoes or winter items or back-to-school things.”

Sponsors of the event at the Columbia Center also include the African American Breastfeeding Coalition, CareOregon, City of Portland Water Bureau, Multnomah County Health Department and more.

Another Kwanzaa celebration will be held from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 28, at the North Portland Library, 512 N. Killingsworth St. The celebration will include games and crafts for children, an explanation of Kwanzaa, lots of food including sweet potato pie and a candle lighting ceremony led by Joyce Harris, according to library administrator Patricia Welch. The event also will include a time to honor ancestors and family and friends who have died. But mostly, according to Welch, it’s a community event.

“It is a chance for people to get together,” she said.

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