Students, staff and faculty pose at the 2008 Pre-Kwanzaa celebration at the original Hale Center location. Credit: Courtesy of Phillip Mayo

The Hale Black Cultural Center will host its annual PreKwanzaa Celebration on Dec. 4. It will serve as the official celebration of the pan-African holiday Kwanzaa on campus.

“The PreKwanzaa Celebration is an opportunity to teach other people about principles that build community, that celebrates culture, that encourages collectivity and also connectivity,” Tanisha Jackson, assistant director of the Hale Center, said.

The tradition began 32 years ago and was initiated by Dr. Richard “Moriba” Kelsey and the Black Graduate and Professional Student Caucus.

Phillip Mayo, program manager for the Hale Center, said the PreKwanzaa program was created out of a desire by students to celebrate Kwanzaa, which traditionally begins on Dec. 26 and continues until the new year — when students are away for winter break.

“The initiative was brought up, and so it began with drumming, food celebration, the lighting of the kinnara, or the candle-holder, and basically progressed for 32 years here at the university,” he said.

Each year’s program highlights a different theme based off the Nguzo Saba — the seven pan-African principles celebrated over the course of the seven days of Kwanzaa.

This year’s theme is “Umoja,” which is Swahili for unity.

“We model the event around that theme in terms of the speaker that we have for that event or the celebration we have for that event,” Mayo said.

This year’s event won’t have a main speaker, but will include remarks from prominent figures across the university such as Javaune Adams-Gaston, director of Student Life, Todd Suddeth, director of the Multicultural Center, and University President Michael Drake.

Another major part of the program will be a musical tribute to Aretha Franklin, performed by  Elaine Richardson of the Women Gender and Sexuality Studies Department.

“Through the PreKwanzaa Celebration we are celebrating the accomplishments of people within our community,” Jackson said. “We are remembering those who have made an impact historically as well as on a local, national, global level.”

As practiced during Kwanzaa, members from organizations such as African Youth League and African-American Heritage Festival will come and light each of the seven candles on the kinara, reflective of the seven principles.

Mayo said that Kwanzaa, created by Maulana Karenga in 1966, doesn’t focus on one specific African country or culture, but aims to unite all people of the African diasporic experience, and has spread to be a globally recognized holiday today.

“[Karenga] took the seven principles from different African ideas and put them together to create a holiday that African-Americans can take pride in as they begin the new year with some principles that had been passed down for generations,” he said.

The PreKwanzaa Celebration will take place in the MLK Lounge at Hale Hall from 6 to 8 p.m.