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Oyibo H. Afoaku
Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center

George Vlahakis
IU Media Relations

Last modified: Monday, November 21, 2005

Kwanzaa founder to help IU Bloomington observe celebration Dec. 1

Nov. 21, 2005

Maulana Karenga

EDITORS: Advance interviews are available by contacting George Vlahakis in IU Media Relations at 812-855-0846 or

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Maulana Karenga, founder of Kwanzaa, an African American and Pan-African holiday celebrated in African communities worldwide, will be the featured speaker at Indiana University Bloomington's Pre-Kwanzaa Celebration on Dec.1.

A ceremony and a lecture by Karenga -- who also chairs the cultural and social change group The Organization Us and the National Association of Kawaida Organizations -- will begin at 6 p.m. in the Ruth N. Halls Theatre in the Lee Norvelle Theatre and Drama Center, 275 N. Jordan Ave.

Following Karenga's address, IU students will perform musical and dramatic works that reinforce Kwanzaa's seven basic values of African culture which contribute to building and reinforcing family, community and culture. A reception, dinner and book signing will follow in the Grand Hall of the adjacent Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center. All events are free and open to the public.

Kwanzaa was first celebrated on Dec. 26, 1966, and is traditionally observed from Dec. 26 through Jan.1, with each day focused on Nguzo Saba, or the seven principles. Derived from the Swahili phrase "matunda ya kwanza," which means "first fruits," Kwanzaa is rooted in the first harvest celebrations practiced in various cultures in Africa. Kwanzaa seeks to reinforce a connectedness to African cultural identity, provide a focal point for the gathering of African peoples, and to reflect upon the seven principles that have sustained them.

Karenga has had a profound effect on black intellectual and political culture. Through Organization Us and his philosophy, Kawaida, he has played a vanguard role in various social movements in African American society. He played a major role in political and intellectual movements such as Black Power, Black Arts, Black Studies, independent schools, Afrocentricity, ancient Egyptian studies and currently the Reparations Movement. He was on the national organizing committee of the Million Man March/Day of Absence and authored the mission statement for that joint project.

He is the author of numerous scholarly articles and books, including Introduction to Black Studies, the most widely used introductory text in black studies; Selections from The Husia: Sacred Wisdom of Ancient Egypt; The Book of Coming Forth by Day: The Ethics of the Declarations of Innocence; Kawaida: A Communitarian African Philosophy; and a translation and ethical commentary on the classical Yoruba text titled Odu Ifa: The Ethical Teachings.

His most recent publication is Maat, the Moral Ideal in Ancient Egypt: A Study in Classical African Ethics (Routledge Press, 2004). An activist-scholar of national and international recognition, he frequently has lectured on the life and struggle of African peoples on major college campuses in the United States, Senegal, Nigeria, Egypt, South Africa, the People's Republic of China, Cuba, Trinidad, Britain and Canada.

The program is sponsored by the African American Arts Institute, the African American Cultural Center Library, the Department of African American and African Diaspora Studies, the African Students Association, the Archives of African American Music & Culture, the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, the Black Graduate Student Association, the Black Student Union, the Commission on Multicultural Understanding, the Dean of Faculties Office, the Department of Theatre and Drama, the Office of International Programs, the IU Student Association, the Monroe County Community School Corp., the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the National Pan-Hellenic Council, the Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center, the Safe & Civil City Program of the City of Bloomington, the School of Health, Physical Education & Recreation, and Union Board.

For more information, contact the Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center at 812-855-9271 or