AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORECoach Doc Rivers a “fan” from way back of Jazz’s Jordan Clarkson“The biggest misperception is that there’s a deity involved. It doesn’t take away from anyone’s religious belief,” said the Rev. Zedar Broadous, the vice president and secretary of the Los Angeles County Commission on Human Relations. “The mainstay of Kwanzaa is family and friends and what we can do to make those better and stronger.” Kwanzaa always starts on Dec. 26, and each day has a designated principle. The first day’s principle is always about unity. “Kwanzaa is important because it helps us redefine ourselves. As Africans who were displaced as slaves in this country, we had our culture stripped away from us,” said Valerie Duncan-Evans, a Long Beach resident. “Kwanzaa is a little bit of Africa and a little bit of America.” Those who observe Kwanzaa can make it as simple or as elaborate as they want, but the centerpiece of the week is a festive Kwanzaa table. African-Americans who observe the weeklong cultural festival of Kwanzaa will arrange red and green candles and one black one on their seven-branch kinara today. As they light the black candle, representing unity, they will be taking part in the 41st annual observance of Kwanzaa. Kwanzaa is a festival that African-Americans can call their own because it was created here in Southern California. It is a cultural festival, not in any way tied to a religion, so those who observe Kwanzaa are not compromising their religious faith. The customary symbols placed on the table include a kinara, a straw mat, ears of corn, fruits and vegetables, a colorful cloth and a “unity” cup. Each element on the table symbolizes a connection to ancestral heritage or the future. The three red and the three green candles, placed in a group on either side of the black candle, symbolize the daily principles of Kwanzaa. Kwanzaa observers can get caught up in the “correct” order in which to light the candles and even what time of day to light them, but the bottom line of Kwanzaa is talking about the principles. Broadous said that there is the element of planning ahead for Kwanzaa, as there is for any other celebration, but people can choose to keep Kwanzaa meaningful. “Kwanzaa, to me, is not about what food to have or any gift-giving. Those satisfy our human passions. Kwanzaa is about being fed and nourished through the principles. Thinking about what is the purpose of my family, the purpose of my workplace and how can I make my community better: Those are the important parts of Kwanzaa.” Broadous reflected on the essence of Kwanzaa through the examples of the yearly cycle of secular and religious commemorative days that Americans may observe. “Many Americans don’t know the difference between Memorial Day and Veterans Day. When people think about Memorial Day, for example, they think about a picnic, a barbecue or a sale. People have given their lives for us and that’s what some people are thinking about or planning. That’s sad,” Broadous said. “The bottom line for Kwanzaa, as it is for days like Memorial Day, is never make anything more important than the principles.” The custom on each day of Kwanzaa is to gather around the festive table, light the candle of the day and then discuss the principle. Broadous strives to kick off each day of Kwanzaa in the morning because that is how he gets the optimum reflection on the day’s principle. “The principles are thought-provoking. Take “imani,” faith. I can think about my faith in God, my faith in the people who I work with and my faith in the United States of America, with all its warts,” said Broadous. Besides faith, unity, creativity and cooperative economics, the other principles of Kwanzaa are: “kujichagulia,” self-determination; “nia,” purpose; and “ujima,” collective work and responsibility. A stumbling block for some who may want to observe Kwanzaa, speculated Broadous, may be the use of Swahili, the language of some east African countries. “When people get around that “umoja” means unity, “kuumba” means creativity and “ujamaa” means cooperative economics,” said Broadous, “then people get what Kwanzaa is all about.” For the last day of Kwanzaa, Jan. 1, Duncan-Evans said she always has a feast. Her family lights the candles and talks about all seven principles, including the final one, faith, on that day. “Kwanzaa is not about getting commercial. If we give gifts, we make them and they are from the heart,” Duncan-Evans said. “We try to do something that relates to the principle of each day. You arrange Kwanzaa as it pertains to you.” If Broadous had his way, more people, even non-African-Americans, would observe and learn from Kwanzaa. He said too many Americans pigeonhole all parts of culture and often shun what they don’t know before they give something or someone a chance. “People say `I don’t celebrate that.’ Lack of knowledge is what keeps us apart as a country. I’ve sat at a Seder table. I’ve participated in Ramadan,” said Broadous. “If people took the opportunity to talk about the principles of Kwanzaa, I think this would be a much, much better world. Kwanzaa is good for all people.” “Kwanzaa Celebration,” moderated by Maria Strmsek, will be part of the 10:30 a.m. meeting Saturday at Sepulveda Unitarian Universalist Society, 9550 Haskell Ave., North Hills. Call 818-894-9252.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!