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University promotes diversity with 15th annual Kwanzaa

Kwanzaa
Kwanzaa

Clarence Jackson came to the Union Ballroom on Wednesday night eager to learn a lesson that couldn’t be taught in a classroom.

Although Kwanzaa is familiar to the University junior, no two celebrations are the same, and each one is an educational opportunity, he said.

“For me, Kwanzaa means bringing everyone together to promote unity and purpose,” Jackson said. “Look at all the cultures in this room. At this event, we can all learn something from every person we encounter  - we all have a purpose.”

The Black Student Union sponsored its 15th annual Kwanzaa celebration Wednesday night.

More than 300 people gathered in the Union Ballroom to commemorate African-American culture and celebrate diversity on campus.

“Our goal is to bring awareness of all cultures,” said senior Tiffany Smith, one of the students who hosted the event. “We want to create pride and a sense of unity.”

Umdabu South African Dance Company, from Birmingham, Ala., attended Kwanzaa to educate the audience about South African culture through song, dance and storytelling.

“For our 15th year we wanted to do something really big,” Smith said. “Normally our entertainment is done from within, so to bring an outside dance company this year is really exciting.”

Kwanzaa is an African-American cultural holiday that was first recognized Dec. 26, 1966.

It is traditionally celebrated from Dec. 26 to Jan. 1, with each day focusing on one of seven principles: unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, a sense of purpose, creativity and faith.

University students spoke about each principle during a candle lighting ceremony.

“Creativity means revolution – and people don’t spark things, revolution does,” said junior DeMark Jenkins, who spoke about creativity. “We all have struggles, and we need to use that struggle to spark a revolution … Then we can have creative and effective change.”

The event also included a “soul food” dinner, a performance of “Lift Every Voice and Sing” from the Bowling Green High School Black Culture Club and a unity step dance from fraternities and sororities in the National Pan-Hellenic Council.

“Planning everything was pretty stressful, but it all came together and worked out great,” said junior Ashley Brown, who also hosted the event. “It’s definitely worth it, especially when I see everyone here celebrating.”

Sophomore Cassie Berry, Black Student Union member, said she enjoyed all aspects of the Kwanzaa celebration.

“It was very unifying,” Berry said after the event. “There was a variety of entertainment, but my favorite part was that it was a full house. It was great to see all of the support.”

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