Denver, CO

Denver celebrates Kwanzaa with parade, dance, new Kinara

David Heitz
Stock image courtesy Pixabay

By David Heitz / NewsBreak Denver

(Denver, Colo.) Denver area residents can observe Kwanzaa, a celebration of community, family, and culture, with special events starting this weekend.

Kwanzaa starts Sunday and continues through Jan. 1.

Kwanzaa parade: Begins at 6 p.m. Sunday, and the route will travel from the Caldwell Library to Cleo Parker Robinson Theatre, 119 Park Avenue West.

The First Night Celebration: Begins after the parade at 6:30 p.m. Sunday at the theater and features performances by the Platinum Divas, coached by Ms. Chinque.

Kwanzaa dance: 5 p.m. Dec. 31. All participants must wear a mask to the masquerade ball. Masks and beads will be available for a $5 donation. The event includes a gumbo and rice dinner, line dancing, and a Platinum Divas performance.

Refurbished Kinara installed at Caldwell Library

The Kwanzaa Committee of Denver started the celebration early by installing a refurbished kinara or candleholder Wednesday at Blair Caldwell African American Research Library, 2401 Welton St. in Denver.

The refurbished Kinara was sorely needed, according to organizers of Kwanzaa events. It was built and installed by John Hayden of Friends of Curtis Park, according to the Kwanzaa Committee of Denver’s Facebook page.

Learn more about Kwanzaa

It is customary to greet people during the seven-day celebration by saying "What is in the news?" or "Habari Gani?" in Swahili.

The proper answer is to state that day's Kwanzaa principle because Kwanzaa is a time for reflection.

To help people learn more about Kwanzaa, the Denver Public Library offers a virtual Zoom series to discuss some of the principles, including:

  • Kujichagulia (self-determination)
  • Ujima (collective work and responsibility)
  • Ujamaa (cooperative economics)
  • Nia (purpose)

"Founded in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga, Kwanzaa combines aspects of several different harvest festivals into a seven-day celebration of family, community and culture," the library's website said.

"Each night of Kwanzaa, a candle in the Kinara (candleholder) is lit and one of seven principles, or Nguzo Saba, are discussed. While every family may celebrate differently, each principle is rooted in universal beliefs that are found in every culture."

The other principles of Kwanzaa include Umoja (unity) Kuumba (creativity) and Imani (faith).

The seven symbols associated with Kwanzaa, also in Swahili:

  • Mazao (fruits, vegetables, and nuts)
  • Mkeka (placemat)
  • Kinara (candleholder)
  • Vibunzi (ear of corn),
  • Zawadi (gifts
  • Kikombe cha Umoja (communal cup of unity)
  • Mishumbaa saba (the seven candles placed in the Kinara)

You can sign up for the virtual Kwanzaa presentations on the library website. The programs are:

  • Kujichacuglia, self-determination, Dec. 27
  • Ujima, collective work and responsibility, Dec. 28
  • Ujamaa, cooperative economics, Dec. 29
  • Nia, purpose, Dec. 30.

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I've been in the news business 35 years, spending much of my career in editing roles at community newspapers in Southern California and the Quad-Cities of Illinois and Iowa. Upon moving to Denver in 2018, I began experiencing severe mental illness due to several traumatic experiences. I became homeless on the street for about a year before spending time in the state mental hospital. I am proof that people can rebound from even severe mental illness with proper treatment. I consider myself a lucky guy to live in a great place like Denver. I hope my writing reflects the passion I have for living in the Mile High City. You can email me news releases and story ideas at

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