Black Student Union hosts annual Kwanzaa celebration and honors principle of Kujichagulia

The Black Student Union (BSU) holds a celebration for Kwanzaa every year. Kwanzaa, a week-long holiday observed from Dec. 26 to Jan. 1., means “first fruits.” The holiday was established in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga, originating from African harvest celebrations. It has seven core principles that are represented by seven candles. One candle is lit each day until the New Year.

Kwanzaa uses KiSwahili words to signify the seven principles, collectively called Nguzo Saba. The principles are Umoja (unity), Kujichagulia (self-determination), Ujima (collective work and responsibility), Ujamaa (cooperative economics), Nia (purpose), Kuumba (creativity) and Imani (faith). The principles are meant to build and reinforce family, community, and the culture of Africans and African-Americans worldwide.

For the 2013 Kwanzaa event, BSU celebrated Kujichagulia. The event was held Wednesday Dec. 4th in the Tahoma Room. There were two guest speakers, a performance, and a candle lighting ceremony.

The night began with a speech on self-determination by esteemed playwright Rosalind Bell, who has written three plays and various other works. Bell spoke of her journey through life and how she managed to navigate around the obstacles that arose. She shared a personal anecdote with the audience about how self-determination helped to change her relationships with others.

“Change is possible,” Bell said.

After the first speech finished, President of Tacoma Urban League Victoria Woodards gave a talk on how the theme of Kujichagulia was relevant in her life. Woodards encouraged all students to self-affirm that they are powerful individuals as she talked about the magnitude of abilities that students possess, and the ways in which students can make the world a better place. She read a poem about the importance of using time to the fullest.

I have only just a minute, only sixty seconds in it. Forced upon me, can’t refuse it. Didn’t seek it, didn’t choose it, but it’s up to me to use it. I must suffer if I lose it. Give account if I abuse it. Just a tiny little minute, but eternity is in it,” Woodards read.

Following the speeches, members of BSU led the candle lighting portion of Kwanzaa. During the ceremony, each member explained the significance of the candles as they were lit.

“I thought the candle lighting portion was really endearing,” audience member Greg Reeser said.

At the close of the evening, members of BSU talked about the significance of the club, what the plans were for the future, and why they were fundraising for this year.

The BSU is launching a new scholarship this year intended to support students of color at Puget Sound. The club is looking to award its first scholarship at the end of this academic year.

Kwanzaa was the first night of fundraising. At the end of the night, the BSU received a surprise donation from a member of the audience who heavily supported the start of this scholarship.

The BSU is planning to release its next issue of Black Ice, its annual literary magazine, during spring semester. Black Ice celebrates the work of students, faculty, and community members by collecting their submissions and publishing it in a magazine. Anything in print form can be submitted — essays, poems, short stories, pictures, comics, and artwork included— by taking a picture of art or emailing written work to

BSU hopes to empower students on campus to embrace all sides of their identities and meet in a space that is welcoming to all cultures and backgrounds. For those interested in learning more about the club, students can contact Danae Smith who is this year’s president.