“Although Kwanzaa isn’t celebrated until later in December, Pre-Kwanzaa is meant to be a place to gather, connect, share life and food and express grati- tude for the gifts of the previ- ous year,” stated Erin Guzman, the interim director of Religious and Spiritual Life (RSL) at the College of Wooster, regarding The College’s annual Pre-Kwanzaa celebration.
The Pre-Kwanzaa celebration, which took place this past Wednesday, Dec. 4 at 7:00 p.m. in The Alley, is meant to be“a place where we can gather and be reflective and thankful at the end of the year and to be thankful for blessings in our life,” according to Amanda Paniagua, the director of Multi- cultural Student Affairs (MSA).
Paniagua was also one of the organizers of this year’s Pre- Kwanzaa celebration. In previous years, the Pre-Kwanzaa celebration was organized by its founder, Kim Green, the former program coordinator for the Center of Diversity and Inclusion who has since left the College. However, Paniagua hopes to continue the tradition Green started; this year marks the third year Pre-Kwanzaa has been celebrated at Wooster.
At Wooster, Pre-Kwanzaa is a collaboration between the MSA and RSL departments. In previous years, RSL has played alargepartinPre-Kwanzaa. RabbiDarioHunter,whohas since left the school, was in- vited to speak at a previous cel- ebrationandheexploredthe similarities between Kwanzaa and Hannukah in his speech. Paniagua hopes to continue
Hunter’s example so that in future years the Pre-Kwanzaa celebration will grow to include more religious groups and their perspectives, while always keeping the celebration centered as a pan-African tradition with a focus on the African American experience and tradition.
Previous celebrations have been hosted at Gault Recital Hall in Scheide, in order to be able to showcase student performances on stage. Students and staff would participate in creative expression like song and dance as each candle on the Kinara, on the altar space, was lit.Following that,there has traditionally been a soul food dinner for everyone to enjoy.
The goals of the celebration were“to share about the holiday and its values, its cultural significance for communities of the African diaspora and to encourage those in attendance to reflect on what those values mean in their own lives,” described Guzman. Those seven principles are Umoja (Unity), Kujichagulia (Self-Determi- nation), Ujamma (Cooperative Economics), Kuumba (Creativ- ity), Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility), Nia (Pur- pose) and Imani (Faith). This year, those values were embraced as organizers worked hard to create a space in which the campus community could convene and embrace the bless- ings in their lives together. In Guzman’s words, “lift up the ‘harvest’and bounty in their lives.”For Guzman,the“beauty of the Pre-Kwanzaa event is that it highlights this important and underepresented tradition, gives students space to share their gifts and allows time for rest and renewal.” She and Paniagua “hope the Pre- Kwanzaa event can continue to be a time for all to have space for reflection and connection with the wider community, especially before heading into the busyness of final exams.” Paniagua particularly hopes that it was an “uplifting experience” for everyone involved, and that it helped “African American students feel visible in a celebratory way” and still “resonate with people outside the community who can hopefully feel a connection to the celebratory spirit.”
If you are interested in being apartofthePre-Kwanzaa celebrationinfutureyears,please reach out to Amanda Paniagua at firstname.lastname@example.org for moreinformation.Pre-Kwanzaa is a community celebration that depends on student participation and volunteering.