The principle on the first night of Kwanzaa is umoji, or unity, and Flossmoor Trustee George Lofton and his wife, Felecia, led the candle lighting ceremony in Flossmoor Park on Dec. 26 to celebrate how the concept defines the village.
Flossmoor Mayor Michelle Nelson introduced them.
“Kwanzaa is a great time to promote Black excellence and also the principles behind Kwanzaa,” she said, noting that George Lofton exemplifies the first night principle, unity. “I can think of nobody better to talk about that than George Lofton, who brings people together all the time.”
Lofton offered a brief history of Kwanzaa, which is a relatively new winter holiday developed by Africana scholar and activist Maulana Karenga. It was first observed in 1966.
“It draws on southern African first fruits celebrations,” Lofton said. “It was conceived as a non-political, non-religious holiday and is not considered to be a substitute for Christmas.”
He also noted the purpose of the first principle.
“Unity in community is around goals that bring us together,” he said. “When our communities work together ultimately our world becomes safer and more harmonious.”
After the candle lighting, Felecia noted that unity describes how Flossmoor works.
“Unity is very important in any community, and certainly in a community like Flossmoor where we work together, we talk together, and we play together,” she said.
Nelson built the kinara that holds the Kwanzaa candles last year, before the first community Kwanzaa celebration.
“I was inspired by the menorah and by the principals of Kwanzaa,” she said. “To me the principles of Kwanzaa should serve as a backbone for any strong community, so I thought I would build one last year. It’s not exactly the same (as the community menorah), but I tried to make it match as close as possible. Hopefully they complement each other in this season of lights and joy.”