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Savannah to honor Kwanzaa with many pandemic-safe events
Local leaders launch city’s first-ever 'Kwanzaa Krawl' to boost Black-owned businesses
A Kwanzaa assemblage artwork featuring symbolic objects and imagery. - photo by Savannah African Arts Museum
The pandemic may threaten to detract from the holiday season’s joy, but the spirit of Kwanzaa prevails as community leaders in Savannah find ways for locals to honor the seven-day celebration.

Kwanzaa is an African American and pan-African holiday that is celebrated annually during Dec. 26-Jan. 1. In the words of Kwanzaa’s founder, Dr. Maulana Karenga, “Each year Kwanzaa provides us with a special and unique time to see and celebrate ourselves as African people in beautiful, uplifting, and liberating ways.”

To observe Kwanzaa this year, Savannah leaders are organizing events that give the community options to celebrate from the comfort of their own homes or in socially distanced settings on each night of Kwanzaa.

Lisa Jackson, the education coordinator for the Savannah African Arts Museum, has organized various virtual workshops demonstrating the creation of African art, such as masks and dolls. The series culminates with the Kwanzaa Assemblage workshop.

“An assemblage is a great way to share your story with family, friends, and community during Kwanzaa. It can be given as a gift, displayed on a table, framed, or hung as a Kwanzaa decoration that you may choose to add elements to each year,” said Jackson.

All of the workshops will be available throughout the Kwanzaa holiday on the African Arts Museum website; visit to learn more.

Kwanzaa is also significant in that it was founded in response to violence against, as well as within, the African American community, according to Savannah Alderwoman Kesha Gibson-Carter.

“More than 50 years ago, Kwanzaa was created in response to community riots in Los Angeles,” Gibson-Carter said. “In the face of increased homicide in Savannah among our African American youth, particularly boys and men, I thought it would be fitting to highlight our culture on a broader stage, to remind our young men and women of how valuable they are, evoke love, and help them to understand the responsibility they have to our ancestors who fought for so many of the freedoms they enjoy today.”

Gibson-Carter has teamed up with Savannah State University Professor Jamal Touré and community activist Lillian Grant-Baptiste to launch the city’s first-ever Kwanzaa Krawl.

The goal of the Kwanzaa Krawl is to increase economic activity for Black-owned restaurants, showcase artists, and support local nonprofit organizations. Participants can support the restaurants by dining there, with the option to bid on displayed works by local artists.

During these celebrations, Touré and Baptiste will offer demonstrations of Kwanzaa’s seven principles, the Nguzo Saba. During Kwanzaa, families traditionally light a candle each day for seven days in observation of each of these seven principles: Ujoma, meaning unity; Kujichagulia, meaning self-determination; Ujima, meaning collective work and responsibility; Ujamaa, meaning cooperative economics; Nia, meaning purpose; Kuumba, meaning creativity; and Imani, meaning faith.

“It’s about us coming together in unity, cooperative economics, collective work, and responsibility − a divine purpose with our faith being etched into all stones of self-determination,” said Touré.

During each Kwanzaa Krawl event, a limited number of participants will be allowed into the restaurants to abide by social distancing guidelines and other COVID-19 precautions, so reservations are recommended.

Savannah’s Kwanzaa Krawl celebrations will be happening at the following local restaurants between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m.: Odyssey 2.0 (65 W. Fairmont Ave.) on Dec. 26; 520 Tavern (8820 Abercorn St.) on Dec. 27; Kool Vibes (4501 Montgomery St.) on Dec. 28; 2 Chefs (2005/2007 Martin Luther King Blvd.) on Dec. 29; Belford’s (315 W. St. Julian St.) on Dec. 30; Unforgettable Bakery and Café (238 Eisenhower Dr.) on Dec. 31; and Liquid Café (10201 Abercorn St.) on Dec. 31.

The Beach Institute will also be hosting virtual Kwanzaa candle-lighting ceremonies to honor the holiday’s seven principles every evening from Dec. 26 through Jan. 1; visit this website or call 912-335-8868 for more information.