With the lighting of the black, first candle in the Kinara, and discussions of the principle of unity, the annual Kwanzaa celebration began Wednesday.

Kwanzaa events

Today6-8 p.m.: Tri-County Black Nurses Association will sponsor “An Evening in the Spirit,” featuring speakers, African drum and dance and healthy feast at the YWCA on Coming Street.Friday2 p.m.: St. Julian Devine Recreation Center will hold a community parade at Mall Park. Included are speakers, a fashion show and food. 6 p.m.: An annual multifaceted program will be held at the Cannon Street YMCA. Included are speakers, entertainment and refreshments.7-9 p.m.: Speakers and refreshments, Kingdom Revelation Worship Center, 279 Orangeburg Road, Summerville.Saturday1-4 p.m.: RBM and Wos’se African Drum and Dance groups present an afternoon of cultural experience at Ferndale Community Center, 1919 Bolton Ave. Sunday4-8 p.m.: Huger’s 587 King St. A reggae band, spoken word and refreshments are included. Donation $5Monday3-6 p.m.: Master dance and drum classes for beginners at NIA Infant and Toddler Child Development Center, 2007 Helm Ave.Staff reportJan. 11 p.m.: Remembrance ceremony at Sankofa Memorial Burial Grounds, Maybank and Folly roads.4-8 p.m.: Entertainment, food and vendors, Ferndale Community Center 1919 Bolton Ave.

The weeklong secular holiday will be marked in the Charleston area in private homes and in public places where activities and expressions of African culture, such as drumming and dancing, will be blended with lessons about values, such as self-reliance and unity.

“It’s such a life-changing event,” said Mary Brown, a leader in organizing an event tonight at the YWCA on Coming Street in downtown Charleston, co-sponsored by the Tri-County Black Nurses Association.

“It gives you a different perspective, and can put people on a better path,” she said.

Based upon African harvest festivals, Kwanzaa was created in 1966 by California State University professor and activist Maulana Karenga. Kwanzaa runs through Jan. 1, and each day is dedicated to one of seven principles, and marked by the lighting of another candle on the Kinara, which is similar in appearance to a Jewish menorah.

Each day, and each candle, represents one of the principles, which are unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith.

“I’m really looking forward to the event, and speaking about the seven principles,” Charleston City Councilman William Dudley Gregorie said Wednesday before an event at Nichol’s Chapel, where he was a scheduled speaker. “These are principles for all cultures.”

As a secular holiday, Kwanzaa is typically celebrated in addition to religious holidays.

“Being an African-American with a Jewish father, I celebrate all the holidays,” Dudley said.

One of the most visible Kwanzaa events in the Charleston area will be a parade and celebration Friday afternoon downtown. Participants will gather at Mall Park, at Columbus and America streets, at 2 p.m., then parade to the city’s St. Julian Devine Community Center.

“We will have a lot of people out, starting with the parade at Mall Park, with the African drumming and the elders leading,” said Pamela Deveaux, at the community center. “There’s a feast, and before that, different people talk about what Kwanzaa means and what it is about. We do have a big turnout.”

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