Kwanzaa is a cultural holiday that celebrates African heritage. The very first campus Kwanza event at Illinois Wesleyan University was held on December 10th, 1996, thirty years after its creation. The event was run by the combined efforts of Monica Taylor, the multicultural affairs director at the time, and the Black Student Union, and is now an annual tradition.
Kwanzaa is a week long African American harvest celebration created in 1966 by Maulana Karenga, who was a professor of African studies at California State Univeristy. Illinois Wesleyan was fortunate enough to have Karenga visit its campus in 1998, where he presented his speech, “The Principles and Practice of Kwanzaa: Harvesting and Sharing the Good.” After this speech, Karenga and seven IWU students performed the ritual of the lighting of the Mishumaa.
“The mission of human life is to constantly bring good into the world.” – Maulana Karenga 1998
While the actual event occurs from December 26th until January 1st, IWU celebrates it in early December, so the students can celebrate it together on campus. The event includes singing, dancing, drum performances, as well as a feast of traditional Kwanzaa cuisine, such as catfish, chicken wings, black-eyed peas, and Joliffe rice. There is also a speech given about the seven principles of Kwanzaa; unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith. This celebration takes place every year and is free and open to the public.