Kwanzaa & the Celebration of African Culture

kwanzaa_familyIf you’re like me, you’ve heard of Kwanzaa, have some ideas about what it might be (but actually have no idea). Hopefully we can fix that today! After a very short intro to Kwanzaa, there will be links to some of Channon’s and my favorite videos of African culture, dancing, and music. We will be posting these on our Facebook page throughout the day!

My co-blogger, Channon, sent me to a link on the Official Kwanzaa Website, which was super helpful! You can read the first part here, then go HERE for the rest.

“Kwanzaa is an African American and Pan-African holiday which celebrates family, community and culture. Celebrated from 26 December thru 1 January, its origins are in the first harvest celebrations of Africa from which it takes its name. The name Kwanzaa is derived from the phrase “matunda ya kwanza” which means “first fruits” in Swahili, a Pan-African language which is the most widely spoken African language.

“The first-fruits celebrations are recorded in African history as far back as ancient Egypt and Nubia and appear in ancient and modern times in other classical African civilizations such as Ashantiland and Yorubaland. These celebrations are also found in ancient and modern times among societies as large as empires (the Zulu or kingdoms (Swaziland) or smaller societies and groups like the Matabele, Thonga and Lovedu, all of southeastern Africa. Kwanzaa builds on the five fundamental activities of Continental African “first fruit” celebrations: ingathering; reverence; commemoration; recommitment; and celebration. Kwanzaa, then, is:

  • a time of ingathering of the people to reaffirm the bonds between them;
  • a time of special reverence for the creator and creation in thanks and respect for the blessings, bountifulness and beauty of creation;
  • a time for commemoration of the past in pursuit of its lessons and in honor of its models of human excellence, our ancestors;
  • a time of recommitment to our highest cultural ideals in our ongoing effort to always bring forth the best of African cultural thought and practice; and
  • a time for celebration of the Good, the good of life and of existence itself, the good of family, community and culture, the good of the awesome and the ordinary, in a word the good of the divine, natural and social.” 

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African Caribbean Dance Theater Tallahassee (Live at Leon County Schools)

Amazing African Dance Group choreography with Djembe drumming

Tshwane Traditional Dancers

The Dance Hall | A-Z OF AFRICAN DANCE |

The Very Best – Warm Heart Of Africa feat Ezra Koenig (Official Video)

The Very Best – A Take Away Show in Uganda

FIRST TIME IN NIGERIA – NIGERIA VLOG #1 | AdannaDavid

Mumford & Sons, Baaba Maal, The Very Best, Beatenberg – Wona

Mumford & Sons – Ngamila (Ft. Baaba Maal & The Very Best)

Best Nigerian Wedding Video & Dance #OkeyChinelo

Exodus Steel Orchestra Panorama Semi Final 2013

“Shake Body” by Skales – Dance Cover

Multiculturalism: A Primer

Whether it’s bringing new skills to a job, new ideas and thoughts to a classroom, or new food to a neighbourhood, multiculturalism brings together talented people and innovative and interesting ideas and skills to a country, thus allowing it to thrive! When multiculturalism is adapted in a country, the potential of that country is outstanding, simply because it has a diverse and wide range of people.

by Channon Oyeniran

“Multiculturalism is more than giving children the opportunity to learn Ukrainian or Yiddish or Finnish or Vietnamese. It means to make them into secure citizens, knowing that the traditions of everyone, including their own, are to be respected and cherished; that Canada is a nation that accords dignity to everyone, rather than suppressing people’s identities and thereby detracting from their full sense of humanity.”

– Rabbi W. Gunther Plaut

“As we encounter each other, we see our diversity – of background, race, ethnicity, belief – and how we handle that diversity will have much to say about whether we will in the end be able to rise successfully to the great challenges we face today.”

– Dan Smith, The State of the World Atlas

For someone who lives in one of the most multicultural cities in the world, Toronto, Canada, and has for as long as I can remember, I have always had the privilege of meeting people from all over the world. From elementary school to high school to university, I have met people who were not born in Canada, but they and their families made Toronto their home. It was at the University of Toronto where I really learned more about multiculturalism and that my city is often referred to as “the most multicultural city in the world.” The current trend of global migration creates pockets of different diasporas in many countries, thus making it mandatory for ongoing discussions about what it means to live in a multicultural society. This introductory post will define some concepts of multiculturalism and look at the benefits of multiculturalism in those countries where multiculturalism is often a hotly debated topic.

Defining Multiculturalism

define-the-word-multiculturalism-2-638Multiculturalism is a concept that has been adapted in various degrees by different countries around the world. One definition of multiculturalism states that “multiculturalism is the peaceful coexistence of a culturally diverse or multiethnic populations in a country.” A definition of multiculturalism in Canada specifically states that the “value and dignity of all Canadian citizens regardless of their racial or ethnic origins, their language, or their religious affiliation” (Canada’s Multiculturalism Policy). Multiculturalism is a concept, introduced as a policy in 1971, by then Prime Minister of Canada, Pierre Trudeau. This formalized policy states that it will “protect and promote diversity, recognize the rights of Aboriginal peoples, and support the use of Canada’s two official languages.”

Due to the fact that there are policies and an act surrounding multiculturalism in Canada, it has been shown that it really works and has allowed people from all over the world to come and live in Canada, bringing with them their various cultures and traditions. Please see an excerpt here from my essay, Former Black Slaves in Canada – The Making of the Mosaic, to learn more about multiculturalism in Canada. Now that we have defined what the concept of multiculturalism is, let’s take a look at what the positive and negative arguments for and against multiculturalism are.

Benefits of Multiculturalism

“Cities are a sum of its people. Multiculturalism strengthens the sum.”

– James Morris Robinson, The Sixth Extinction: Genesis: A New World Order

There are many benefits and positive arguments about multiculturalism. Multiculturalism allows different cultures to experience one another’s native foods, music, clothing, stories, among other things. Learning from and simply being exposed to people of different cultures can broaden the minds of the citizens of multicultural-wordlemulticultural societies. Multiculturalism can also improve the intellect of the society as a whole because its citizens are open-minded and have learned from people of different cultural backgrounds. Multicultural societies allow for that country to be tolerant and accepting of people from other cultures. Multicultural societies also lead to an increase in diversity of people, ideas, customs, traditions, food, etc. The benefits of multiculturalism are many and we can see how its benefits work in countries like Canada; however, there are some arguments that do not support multiculturalism. In 2010 at a meeting of young members of her conservative Christian Democratic Union, German Chancellor, Angela Merkel said, “This multicultural approach, saying that we simply live side by side and live happily with each other has failed. Utterly failed.” (Express, “Merkel: Multiculturalism has failed”)

Some arguments against multiculturalism include: the loss of identity for the person who is migrating to a new country, discord, disconnect and lack of understanding between cultures, language barriers for the person migrating, the feeling of isolation for the person migrating as well as discrimination, racism and inequality towards the individual or group that has migrated. These are just some arguments against multiculturalism; however, through different case studies, it has been shown that multiculturalism does work if there are policies and laws that support it.

Multiculturalism in Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom:

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Canada, Australia and the UK have adopted official policies on multiculturalism which have opened the doors for many people who want to migrate to these countries to do so. As mentioned above, multiculturalism was implemented through policy in Canada in 1971 and successfully affected all aspects of the country. One example of this is the 1991 Broadcasting act, that states that Canadian broadcasting should be diverse and reflect the different cultures in the country.  Australia was the second country after Canada in 1972, to adopt into law the concept of multiculturalism. One example of how Australia successfully implemented this was through the creation of the Special Broadcasting Service, in which its mandate states it will “provide multilingual and multicultural radio and television services that inform, educate and entertain all Australians and, in doing so, reflect Australia’s multicultural society.” (SBS FAQs

Multiculturalism was introduced and made into law in the UK in the 1970 and 1980s. One example of how the UK opportunely inserted multiculturalism is that in 1997 the New Labour government committed to doing things on a national level, that used a multiculturalist approach. Though policies and attitudes in certain nations are gradually changing towards multiculturalism, in part due to the current refugee crisis’ and unrest in various countries which force their citizens to leave. Countries like Britain are re-evaluating their stance on multiculturalism. Current global trends in migration, and most notably the terrorist crisis, are forcing most countries with multiculturalism to rethink their policies about the concept.

In Conclusion:

Although it’s a difficult concept to introduce and implement, and it’s not always an easy fix for countries’ issues, multiculturalism is worth working towards. The benefits far outweigh the disadvantages that multiculturalism may present. Multiculturalism allows countries to be more diverse in every aspect of society. Whether it’s bringing new skills to a job, new ideas and thoughts to a classroom, or new food to a neighbourhood, multiculturalism brings together talented people and innovative and interesting ideas and skills to a country, thus allowing it to thrive! When multiculturalism is adapted in a country, the potential of that country is outstanding, simply because it has a diverse and wide range of people.


For more information…

National Museum of African-American History and Culture: A People’s Journey

The one thought that kept permeating my mind was that my ancestors, the African people, although ripped from their land, brought over on slave ships, separated from their families, humiliated, brutalized, killed and beaten, had endured it all and survived!

by Channon Oyeniran

Wow! 100 years…that’s how long it took for the creation of a national museum dedicated exclusively  to African-Americans: their life, culture, and history. The new National Museum of African-American History and Culture (NAAHCM) finally came to fruition and opened its doors to the masses just over a week ago on Saturday, September 24th. I found it so fitting that the ribbon was cut by the first African-American president, the 44th president of the United States of America, the one and only, Barack Obama! (No shame in my Obama-love game.)  The toils and efforts of the past, present, and future are finally manifested with the formation of this 19th Smithsonian Institute museum.

A Brief History of the NMAAHC

It was in 1915 when the first efforts began to have a federally owned museum dedicated to African-American History. African-American veterans of the Union Army were frustrated with the racial discrimination they continued to endure despite their service, and in response formed a committee that would petition for the building of memorials that tuesday-justice1highlighted the many accomplishments of African-Americans. Though the committee had minor victories in this area, there was little success or leeway over the decades towards the ultimate goal of a museum dedicated African-American history. The turning point came in 1988 when the movement for the museum was reignited. Finally in 2003, under the Bush administration, legislation was signed for the authorization of a museum that would concentrate on the history and culture of African-Americans! It took thirteen years, but the NMAAHC is finally open!

Visiting the Museum

I had the opportunity to attend the opening weekend and festivities of this memorable event in American history in Washington D.C. with a group from the Ontario Black History Society (OBHS). From the time we landed in Washington, everyone was talking about the museum and how excited they were that it was finally opening its doors! There was just an excitement in the air all weekend. The program for the ribbon cutting ceremony on Saturday was one of those spectacular, star-studded events. There were presentations and performances by Oprah, Will Smith, Stevie Wonder, Patti Labelle, Angelique Kidjo, amongst others. George W. Bush spoke about why he signed his approval of this legislation back in 2003, and Barack Obama spoke about the importance of this moment, how he watched the museum progress over the years while he was in office, and how glad he was that it was completed before he leaves the White House in January 2017. Sadly, I didn’t get to see this amazing program in person, but the Canadian Embassy accommodated the OBHS group and made it feel like we were on the National Mall watching the opening live! After the ceremony, our group walked around the National Mall, saw the White House, enjoyed free concerts in celebration of the opening of the museum, and spoke to others who were also there to visit the museum.

tuesday-justiceSunday, September 25th, 2016 was the day I had waited for, the day that I got the opportunity to enter this amazing museum and be part of history! As we waited in line, I was full of anticipation that I was there and would soon witness the completion and efforts of something that was 100 years in the making. To be a part of history like this was an amazing moment! As we entered the museum, I knew we wouldn’t have enough time to see everything, so I made up in my mind that I wanted to see the first level (C3: the Slave Trade, Middle Passage, Slavery, and Freedom), a part of black history that is near and dear to my heart. The lines were long and the crowds huge as we made our way downstairs to the C3 level. Once there, I was in awe of what I saw and felt. I felt like I was in a slave ship because of the close quarters (this was done purposefully).  I saw exhibits and artifacts that accurately represented who my ancestors were, what their lives were like, what they had to endure, and how they survived! Although I had been to other black history museums, this one was special. It was mesmerizing; it was done right. I was emotionally moved as I walked through the C3 level reading, reflecting and taking pictures of all that I saw. Learning more, growing more, being filled with more pride for a beautiful people that went through unimaginable horrors. The one thought that kept permeating my mind was that my ancestors, the African people, although ripped from their land, brought over on slave ships, separated from their families, humiliated, brutalized, killed and beaten, had endured it all and survived!

In Conclusion20160925_235335

I encourage all people to go to this museum. It really was refreshing and encouraging to see different races in the museum reflecting and studying our history, and I hope that continues even after the pageantry of the opening fades away. Through the NAAHCM and the many visitors it will receive, it is hoped that black history will be appreciated and understood in such a way that it garners some empathy from people as to why there are certain issues still afflicting the black community, both nationally and globally. This trip to Washington and visiting the National Museum of African-American History and Culture was truly inspiring and, dare I say?, life-changing. Having a museum dedicated solely to African-American history, culture, and life seems absolutely vital at a time like this. We need to know where we came from to understand where we are. African-Americans poured their blood, sweat, and tears into building America and making it the country it is today.  This is the very reason this museum matters; African-Americans are part of the very fabric that make up the United States of America!


Suggestions for visiting the National Museum of African-American History and Culture:

  • The NMAAHC is the Hamilton of museums right now; tickets are free, but due to the enormous interest, getting in isn’t as easy as it as other museums. Start by planning your visit at https://nmaahc.si.edu/.
  • If at all possible, plan for at least two to three days to see the entire museum, because of the ticket situation, this may not be an option over the next few months.
  • The best strategy is to start on the bottom level and work your way up.
  • To get the most out of the museum, take the time to read every exhibit (if you can!).
  • Keep an open mind to the various exhibits the museum has on display.
  • Have a positive attitude! It can be an overwhelming experience, but it will absolutely be worth it!

Resources for visiting Washington:

If you can’t make it to DC, there is a plethora of resources to learn about black history! Don’t wait for February; check them out now!