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Wanda Alexander Dow

celebrates Kwanzaa at the African-American fair

We Love You From

Dad & Mom

September 1, 2017




It was a sunny morning in Jacksonville, Florida. Wanda Dow, age 7, was just entering the African-American Fair with her class.


All week Wanda had watched as the park was decorated with hay, bamboo, and colorful banners. Wanda wished that Carlos, Traci and Marva were here to see how it looked like it was in Africa!


“Everyone, look for things you need for Kwanzaa (KWAN-zah),” the teacher said. The class had just learned about this very special holiday.


Wanda ran up to a stall. “Look,” she cried. “Here’s a Kinara (kee-NAH-ree), the candle holder!”


The merchant smiled at Wanda. “Yes, and I have the Mshumaa Saba (mee-SHOO-mah SAH-bah), too.”


“The seven candles,” Wanda said. “On December 26th, the first night of Kwanzaa, I’ll get to light the first Mshumaa Saba. Then another candle will be lit each night until we have our big feast, the Karamu (kah-Rah-moo), on January 1st.”


“You speak Swahili words well,” the merchant smiled.


Wanda hurried to another stall to find a Mkeka (mm-KAY-kah), the straw mat where the other Kwanzaa items would be placed.


Not only did she find the Mkeka, but also beautiful red, black, and green fabric.


“We can use this fabric to decorate our homes for Kwanzaa,” Wanda said. “Red stands for African-American history, black represents our country and people, and green is for our future.”


“Now all that’s left are Vibunzi (vee-BOON-zee), the ears of corn. One for each kid in the family,” a classmate said.


“Don’t forget the presents, the Zawadi (zah-W A H-dee)!” Wanda shouted. She looked around at all the wonderful things.


“Lots of stuff here would make great Zawadi.”


Remembering the Zawadi made Wanda think of the last night of Kwanzaa. There would be dancing, music, the great feast, and the Zawadi would be opened.


Everyone would talk about how they would celebrate the spirit of Kwanzaa in the new year. Wanda hoped that Carlos, Traci and Marva would be there.


Wanda and her classmates gathered around the teacher. “This fair is like Kwanzaa. Its roots are African—the stalls, the hay, many of the items being sold—but it’s an American event. Dr. Maulana Karenga in 1966. You see, although Kwanzaa is only celebrated in America, its roots are in African heritage,” the teacher aid. “When we celebrate Kwanzaa, each day we remember one of the seven guiding principle—the Nguzo Saba (nah-GOO-zo SAH-bah).”


“If you look closely,” she continued, “you can see many of the principles being practiced right here.”


All the students looked around. Suddenly Wanda shouted, “I know, the first one is Umoja (oo-MOH-jah) or unity. African-Americans have united together to create this fair in our community.”


The teacher nodded. “Does anyone see the next principle, Kujichagulia (Koo-GEE-cha-GOO-lee-ah0, here? When no one answered, she went on, “remember it means for African-Americans to create and speak for ourselves. This fair is a way for us to do that, by showing our history and beliefs, through our crafts, are storytelling dancing, and food.”


“Next is Ujima (oo-GEE-mah), which guides us to work together,” the teacher continued.


“That sounds a lot like Umoja. What’s the difference? asked a student. Wanda raised her hand excitedly. “Ujima means to have a shared responsibility for our community,” she said. “That means working together to keep our community strong, and helping others in the community that are in need. This fair makes our community stronger by bringing us all together.”


Another classmate called out, “the next principle, Ujamaa (oo-JAH-mah), is here, too, Wanda. It means that African-Americans should have our own businesses, and shop and do business at other African-American owned establishments. The merchants here are African-Americans, and African-Americans are shopping here!”


“Yes,” replied the teacher. “Also, the people who were hired to created fliers arrange for the banners we saw, and all the other advertising for the fair were African-American, too.”


Wanda looked at her teacher in amazement. “Nia (NEE-ah), the next principle, must be here too because I sure am proud of my community.”


“Nia, or having a purpose for ourselves and our community, is hard to see with your eyes, but you can tell when it’s working. That’s why you feel proud, Wanda,” answered the teacher.


Wanda smiled at her best friend who knew the next principle. “Kuumba (koo-OOM-bah), or creativity, is easy to see! Everyone here is creative and looks great!”


The teacher looked at all the students. “The last principle, Imani (ee-MAH-nee), or faith, means to believe in ourselves, and have faith that our people are strong and marvelous. When we celebrate Kwanzaa we will remember each of the principles, one for each day, and we will be ready to start the new year with Imani.”


Wanda smiled happily. She couldn’t wait to tell Carlos, Traci and Marva all about the incredible African-American fair. She hoped they would all be together to celebrate Kwanzaa!











Wanda Alexander Dow

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