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Kwanzaa celebrations kick off in Des Moines

The seven-day holiday centers around seven guiding principles, known as the Nguzo Saba.

DES MOINES, Iowa — Saturday marked the first day of Kwanzaa—a non-denominational seven-day celebration of African American community values.

Known as the Nguzo Saba, these seven values each align with a day of Kwanzaa. For the first day, that value is Umoja—which means unity. As observers are reminded of those values on each day, they're encouraged to remember them for the rest of the year, as well.

"These principles do less throughout the year, but we focus on them and recognize them and pay homage to them during these seven days," said Cynthia Hunafa, who's celebrating Kwanzaa.

For the first day, the Fort Des Moines Museum and Education Center kicked off a week of Kwanzaa events. Learning sessions will be hosted from Dec. 26 to Dec. 31, with a celebration for the last day on Jan. 1. 

"I invite everyone to come and learn more about it, and hopefully it can help you to be a better person physically, mentally, spiritually," said JoAnn Hughes, the president of Concerned Citizens for Justice, the group hosting the events.

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Because Kwanzaa is modeled after traditional African harvest celebrations, it's a very community-centric event. Getting to share wisdom between generations and bond over shared traditions is what the holiday is all about.

"We as elders can have that dialogue and share that learning and so forth with young folks," Hunafa said. "So those are the things that come out during Kwanzaa that we would like to see happen throughout the year."

And even though Kwanzaa is designed to celebrate African heritage—no one has to feel left out from the festivities. The guiding principals of the Nguzo Saba apply to everyone.

"This isn't just an African American holiday, anybody can take those principles and put them in their lives. And we would have a better world community," Hughes said.

If you're wanting to attend any of those Kwanzaa sessions, there's no cost to do so. However, masks are required when you're inside the building.

Full schedule of events:

Credit: Concerned Citizens for Justice

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