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Shedding light on Kwanzaa

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    The Rev. Gerald Evans lights the candles for the first night of Kwanzaa at First Community Interfaith Institute of Ohio in Elyria on Dec. 26, 2015.



ELYRIA — For nearly four decades, local minister Gerald Evans has hosted a small group of people in celebration of the weeklong African-American cultural event known as Kwanzaa at the Kanisa House on Cleveland Street.

One of seven principles is celebrated each night: unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith.

For Evans, it’s a time to share a message of goodwill with the community.

Evans will dress in traditional African attire as he and others will celebrate the night with songs, readings and prayer.

The nonprofit First Community Interfaith Institute of Ohio makes a tradition of inviting people to learn about Kwanzaa, a holiday that celebrates family, community and culture. The holiday is observed Dec. 26 through Jan. 1 each year.

Kwanzaa comes from the Swahili phrase, “matunda ya kwanza,” which means “first fruits.” It is a cultural, not religious, holiday. Maulana Karenga, a California State University professor, started Kwanzaa in 1966.

During Kwanzaa festivities, the candles of the Kinara are lit; each candle represents one of the seven principles. The first candle is black, and there are three red and three green candles: the colors of Kwanzaa.

The institute has been celebrating the holiday since its founding in 1978. The institute’s work includes helping homeless people and providing job training. It also teaches anger management to people sent there by the courts.

The Kanisa House is at 142 Cleveland St. in Elyria. For more information, call Dana Burns at (440) 366-3244.

Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or Follow her on Twitter @LisaRobersonCT.

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