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Hundreds gather in L.A. for start of Kwanzaa festival

December 26, 2011 |  5:37 pm

Today marks the first day of Kwanzaa
Crenshaw Boulevard and Leimert Park on Monday played host to Los Angeles' main celebration to mark the start of the African American festival of Kwanzaa.

Hundreds of people turned out along the boulevard -- a cultural focal point for the city's African American community -- to watch a parade and attend a festival that followed in the park. More activities were planned throughout the evening, including a candle lighting ceremony at the California African American Museum in Exposition Park.

Kwanzaa was created in 1966 by Maulana Karenga, now chairman of Cal State Long Beach's Department of Africana Studies, in what he called "an audacious act of self-determination."

The celebration began as a way "to reaffirm the communitarian vision and values of African culture" and to help impress that ideal on African Americans and others of African descent, Karenga wrote on a website about Kwanzaa.

It is, he said, based on seven principles -- unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith.

"The seven principles of Kwanzaa are values that we as Angelenos all hold dear," Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said Monday.

During the seven-day festival, candles are lighted and traditional African foods are often served. Some people fast during the holiday, and a feast is often held on its final night.


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 -- Times staff and wire services

Photo: Drum and drill teams march at last year's annual Kwanzaa parade at Leimert Park. Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times