By Tracy Williams, Tradewinds Communications
The holidays aren’t just a joyous time – they’re also opportunities for learning, cultural awareness and community togetherness.
That’s why this holiday season, we celebrate a community neighbor who teaches us to honor Kwanzaa, and how to celebrate the rich history and tradition that Kwanzaa exemplifies for Pan-African communities throughout the world.
We’re loving our neighbor to the northeast of Stapleton Denver, Thedora Jackson, Executive Director of the Kwanzaa Committee of Denver, who works tirelessly throughout the year to deliver Kwanzaa activities to the Denver community.
Each year, Jackson organizes Denver’s seven-day Zwanzaa observances, which runs from the day after Christmas (December 26th) to New Year’s Day.
The seven core principles of Kwanzaa are:
- Umoja: Unity. To strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and race
- Kujichagulia: Self-Determination
- Ujima: Collective Work and Responsibility
- Ujamaa: Cooperative Economics
- Nia: Purpose
- Kuumba: Creativity
- Imani: Faith
Collectively, the seven principles are called Nguzo Saba. Each of the principles are celebrated and emphasized on each day of the observance through gifts, activities, rituals, community-building conversations and partnerships.
African-inspired foods also play a large role in the Kwanzaa celebrations. Groundnut stew (see recipe below), yams, oxtails, etc., are served and shared, a recipe often passed down from community elders over generations. Often, these foods are frequently served in African American households throughout the years, having been a preserved tradition in some form since the 1800s.
“Our goal, however, is to practice each of the principles throughout the year, not just during Kwanzaa,” Jackson says.
The first day of Kwanzaa, Umoja, exemplifies unity – expressed with the lighting of the kinara, the candle holder used in Kwanzaa celebrations. Seven candles (representing the seven principles) are placed in the kinara – three red on the left, three green on the right, and a single black candle in the center. The word kinara is a Kiswahili word that means candle holder.
In Denver during Umoja, Jackson organizes the annual kick-off parade, which starts at the Blair-Caldwell African American Research Library and ends at the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance (CPRD) facility. Once the parade ends at CPRD, the celebration continues with an induction ceremony into the Circle of Wisdom, which honors the elders in the community.
Jackson is on hand year-round to teach individuals and families about Kwanzaa, its significance in the African American community and beyond, and is 100% committed to ensuring the Kwanzaa legacy lives on for generations to come.
You can find out more about Kwanzaa and this year’s activities by visiting the Kwanzaa Committee of Denver’s Facebook page at. Meantime, readers can also enjoy a taste of Kwanzaa at home with the traditional Kwanzaa/African recipe for groundnut stew below.
We salute her for being a living example of the Love Thy Community creed!
West African Groundnut (or “Peanut”) Stew
This recipe hails from West Africa and is enjoyed throughout the year as a traditional, tasty and nutritious stew. The term “groundnut” comes from the fact that the nuts generally used in this recipe are grown underground.
A hearty stew that’s super-easy to make and great for chilly winter nights, it can be made vegetarian or with chicken. In a pinch, feel free to use vegetable or corn oil for peanut oil, powdered ginger for fresh, water for stock, etc. Kale works well in place of collard greens.
Prep: 20 mins
Cook: 45 mins
Total: 1 hour, five minutes
- 2 tablespoons peanut oil
- 1 red onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh ginger
- 1 pound chicken, cut into chunks (optional)
- 1 tablespoon crushed red pepper, or to taste
- salt and ground black pepper to taste
- 5 cups chicken stock
- 3 small sweet potatoes, cut into chunks
- 1 (16 ounce) can chopped tomatoes, with liquid
- ¼ pound collard greens, roughly chopped
- 1 cup chunky peanut butter
Step 1 – Heat the peanut oil in a large pot over medium-high heat; cook and stir the onion, garlic, and ginger in the hot oil until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the chicken; cook and stir until completely browned. Season with the crushed red pepper, salt, and black pepper. Pour the chicken stock over the mixture. Stir the sweet potatoes into the liquid and bring the mixture to a boil; reduce heat to low, cover the pot partially with a lid, and cook at a simmer for 15 minutes.
Step 2 – Stir the tomatoes, collard greens, and peanut butter into the soup. Partially cover the pot again and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, another 20 minutes.
Step 3 – Enjoy!