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Arts & Culture

Kwanzaa Celebrates Culture and Family in New Orleans

It’s been said that New Orleans is the United States’ most African city. How fitting then that many New Orleanians would celebrate Kwanzaa as they do. Kwanzaa is an African-American cultural celebration that incorporates African ritual and concepts into a week-long commemoration beginning Dec. 26 – Jan. 1.

Children explore their cultural roots at Ashe Cultural Arts Center. Photo Credit: Peter Nakhid (Captured Moments Photography)

The African influence on New Orleans music, dance, and food is undeniable. Kwanzaa observers connect their local culture to their ancestral history for self-improvement. Many New Orleans organizations and neighborhoods participate in Kwanzaa to refocus and rejuvenate their work in the community. Kwanzaa has seven guiding principles, or Nguzo Saba: Umoja (Unity), Kujichagulia (Self-Determination), Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility), Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics), Nia (Purpose), Kuumba (Creativity) and Imani (Faith).

Although, the holiday is practiced by many African Americans, it was not created to be an alternative to other religions or holidays. Kwanzaa’s focus on family, friends and the fruits of the earth can be valuable to anyone.

New Orleans Kwanzaa events often include: speakers, African dancing, drumming, poetry, singing, colorful clothing and décor and discussions open to the public.

Before 2014 ends, explore the rich heritage on display during Kwanzaa in New Orleans. You’ll be sure to learn something new and dance, too.

New Orleans Kwanzaa Events

The New Orleans Kwanzaa Coalition hosts a series of events around the celebration, with each day themed according to the seven principals of Kwanzaa to promote “Living the Nguzo Saba 365.”

Friday, Dec. 26

In an opening event to represent the “umoja” principle, Minister Ava Muhammad Speaks at Ashe Cultural Arts Center on Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard at 6 p.m.

Saturday, Dec. 27

Events themed around “kujichagulia” start at 9 a.m. and include a playground build at BlackStar Cafe in Algiers, a book signing with Labertha McCormick at Community Book Center in the 7th Ward at 3 p.m., and a talent showcase at Community Book Center at 6 p.m.

Sunday, Dec. 28

“Ujima” themed events start at 8 a.m. with a community clean-up at Adinkra NOLA in the 9th Ward, a vegan brunch at Community Book Center at 10 a.m., the play “A Little Village
Kwanzaa” at Cafe Instanbul in the New Orleans Healing Center on St. Claude Avenue at 3 p.m., and the “Liberation Lounge” from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at BlackStar Cafe.

Monday, Dec. 29

From 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dec. 29-31, the Ashe Cultural Arts Center hosts an arts-focused Kwanzaa School Program for students ages 6-16 that includes instruction in dance, drumming, visual arts, creative writing, photography and martial arts. The program also includes breakfast, lunch and snacks. Call 504-569-9070 for details. From 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. the Community Book Center hosts a program for black social workers.

Tuesday, Dec. 30

Under the theme “nia,” there is a job fair at Adinkra NOLA from noon to 5 p.m.

Wednesday, Dec. 31

Cafe Dauphine in the 9th Ward hosts a dinner theater event. The time has not been announced; call 504-621-0634 for details.

Thursday, Jan. 1

The week of Kwanzaa events culminates in an Interdenominational Imani Ceremony at the Guerilla Garden in the 9th Ward.

For more details about these events, email Liz Fletcher at

Kelly Harris blogs at

Kelly Harris is a Southern girl with Northern roots. By day, you can find her working as an early literacy consultant, handling public relations, and advocating for women; by night, find her eating shrimp and grits. Kelly is the founder of, a site dedicated to New Orleans women of color. She lives with her husband and child, a second-liner in training.

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