AASU Holds UCSD Kwanzaa Celebration

Dozens of students from many cultures gathered at the Price Center ballroom last Monday to share in the African-American Student Union’s celebration of Kwanzaa. The celebration was a three-hour event that featured music, poetry, food and a keynote speaker.

Tyler Huff/
Guardian

The event’s program was a busy one, beginning with a drum call and other traditions that have been part of the celebration of Kwanzaa since its inception in the 1960s. Owna Cortes performed the Libation ceremony, an ancient African teaching intended to honor one’s ancestors by pouring water into earth.

“”Our ancestors suffered a great many hardships to bring us to where we are today,”” Cortes said. “”Let us not forget this; let us be grateful and honor them every day.””

She then invited those present, instead of honoring just those historical heroes of the African culture, to name deceased family members so they might be honored during the pouring of the Libation.

Sherman’s Cajun Creole provided dinner, while UCSD catering presented and served the food. Included on the menu were gumbo, red beans and rice, collard greens, sweet potatoes and crawfish, among other dishes.

“”Kwanzaa is the celebration of the harvest,”” said AASU Director of Publicity Ashley Winston of the cultural basis for the menu. “”Traditionally the meal has very little meat and is made primarily of grains and vegetables.””

After dinner, the AASU presented its keynote speaker, Mzee (Elder) Kadumu Moyenda. Moyenda, in addition to being an iridologist who has studied under Paul Gross, is a teacher in the San Diego Unified School District and an Elder in the “”Rites of Passage”” for Boys and Girls in San Diego. Moyenda spoke generally about the meaning of Kwanzaa and the motivations behind its creation.

“”For 400 years, our culture had been oppressed in America,”” Moyenda said. “”It needed a tradition. It needed something that reflected us as a people.””

Moyenda made it clear that, like other holiday traditions, the idea of Kwanzaa is not to exclude other cultures, but to be specifically representative of the African culture, much as Christmas is specifically representative of the Christian tradition.

Moyenda’s oration also focused on the idea of transitions and rites of passage, the steps and stages necessary to properly progress to full adulthood.

“”It’s my second time here at UCSD and it’s always nice to see what’s going on on college campuses today,”” Moyenda said. “”That’s because today’s universities are the foundations of the future.””

As much as it was a cultural event, the AASU Kwanzaa celebration was an educational one as well. The program included a history of Kwanzaa as well as a demonstration and explanation of its many traditions, symbols and practices.

Entertainment during the evening included several poetry readings and a performance by the hip-hop group PackaBlacks.

“”The food was good, so was the entertainment, and the speaker was very poignant,”” UCSD student Antonio Chamberlain said. “”Bravo, AASU.””

Kwanzaa has been celebrated at UCSD for seven years and was first observed at the UCSD Cross Cultural Center. Winston said that the organization begins planning for the annual celebration at the onset of the academic year. Winston and Activities Coordi-nator Amelia Baxter served as masters of ceremony for the evening.

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