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Kwanzaa expo teaches, celebrates principles of holiday

HAMILTON HEIGHTS – A Kwanzaa Expo over the weekend hosted dozens of African-American vendors, merchants, local business owners and professionals offering a variety of products and services.

The annual expo was hosted Saturday and Sunday by Better Family Life, 5415 Page Blvd. Kwanzaa, which begins on Dec. 26, is a seven-day cultural celebration that acknowledges 7 key principles, one for each day. The principles are ujoma, or unity; kujichagulia, or self- determination; ujima, collective work; ujamaa, economics; nia, purpose; kuumba. creativity; and imani, faith.

At the expo, Better Family Life CEO and founder Malik Ahmed said, “We are celebrating the principle of ujamaa, which is cooperative economics.”

“This is the time of year that we spend a lot of money; billions of dollars leave our communities, never to return,” he said. “The Kwanzaa Expo is about recycling those dollars into the hands of African-Americans who can then in turn recycle those back into the African-American community.”

The Spirit Of Angela African Dance Company performs at the Kwanzaa Holiday Expo 2019 at the Better Family Life Cultural Education Business Facility, 5415 Page Blvd. on Saturday, Dec. 14. (Photo by Tyrone Z. McCants / for MetroSTL.com)
Attendees enjoyed activities and games for children and adults, lectures and discussion panels, live entertainment from dance troupes, singers, poets, rappers, and musical performances, and lots of flavorful food by area vendors serving Caribbean, African and healthy dishes for the soul.

One of the many activities was the Kwanzaa House facilitated by Johnson Lancaster of the Progressive Emporium & Education Center. Visitors could learn about the principles and traditions of Kwanzaa by entering a room showing how a home might be decorated for Kwanzaa.

A table was decorated with a mkeka, a straw crochet mat to represent the historic essence of African ancestry. On the mkeka was a mazao, a bowl of fruit; muhindi, ears of corn representing children; zawadi, education gifts for the children; a kinara, or a seven-pronged candle holder; and mishumaa saba, the seven candles representing the seven principles. Three red candles on the left stand for challenges, struggles and setbacks. Three green candles represent hope, inspiration and achievement. And one black candle signifies the people of the African diaspora.

This year, Ahmed presented his first book, “From the Projects to the Pyramids, in Search of a Better Family Life.”

In an interview with MetroSTL, the proud new author called his book a “blueprint, an inspirational story of a family of 12 coming out of the projects with all the negative connotations that implies and doing great things in Harlem first, the west coast of Africa, and in St. Louis.”

He hopes his book and his work with Better Family Life inspires positive family models worldwide as well as community action.

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