Greene, Sumter, and Tallapoosa counties added to disaster declaration, now eligible for FEMA Assistance

Greene, Sumter, and Tallapoosa counties are now eligible for FEMA assistance after the Jan. 12 severe storms, straight-line winds, and tornadoes in Alabama.
Individuals and households in Greene, Sumter and Tallapoosa counties can apply for FEMA Individual Assistance, which may include temporary housing assistance, basic home repairs and certain other uninsured disaster-related needs.
These counties join Autauga, Coosa, Dallas, Elmore, and Hale counties, which were previously approved for Individual Assistance.
Mayor Latasha Johnson said, “We want to thank Congresswomen Sewell and Governor Ivey for working to include Greene County in the disaster declaration for these storms, which damaged our city and county. This means the City of Eutaw, as well as individual homeowners and renters, will be able to get Federal and state help for clean-up in areas affected by the storms.”
Survivors can apply for disaster assistance at, by using the FEMA mobile app, or by calling 800-621-3362. The helpline is open, and help is available from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. local time in most languages. If you use a relay service such as video relay service (VRS), captioned telephone service or others, give FEMA the number for that service.
FEMA’s mission is helping people before, during, and after disasters.
After applying for assistance from FEMA, you will receive an eligibility determination letter from FEMA in the mail or via email. Applicants may need to submit additional information or supporting documentation for FEMA to continue to process an application for financial assistance. Examples of missing documentation may include:
Proof of insurance coverage
Settlement of insurance claims or denial letter from insurance provider
Proof of identity
Proof of occupancy
Proof of ownership
Proof that the damaged property was the applicant’s primary residence at the time of the disaster
Renters may also qualify for a grant under FEMA’s Other Needs Assistance program for uninsured essential personal property losses and other disaster-related expenses, including:
Replacement or repair of necessary personal property such as school supplies, including textbooks, and also furniture, appliances, and clothing
Replacement or repair of tools and other job-related equipment required by those who are self- employed
Repair of primary and registered vehicles
Uninsured or out-of-pocket medical, dental, childcare, moving and storage expenses
Renters and homeowners are required to submit copies of insurance settlements because, by law, FEMA is prohibited from duplicating or paying for expenses already available or covered by insurance or other sources.
After applying for FEMA disaster assistance, those affected by the tornadoes may be referred to the U.S. Small Business Administration for disaster caused or related personal property losses and vehicles related damages. SBA is the largest source of federal disaster recovery funds for individuals, families, and businesses.
All FEMA disaster assistance will be provided without discrimination on the grounds of race, color, sex (including sexual harassment), sexual orientation, religion, national origin, age, disability, limited English proficiency, economic status. If you believe your civil rights are being violated, you can call the Civil Rights Resource line at 833-285-7448.
For information on Alabama’s disaster recovery, visit Follow FEMA on Twitter at FEMA Region 4 (@femaregion4) / Twitter and at

Newswire: Selma Bridge Crossing Jubilee 2023: Now more than ever!

Selma, AL – So many people are calling and asking, ‘Will we still have The Bridge Crossing Jubilee in March?’” said Hank Sanders. My response is: “Yes. Now more than ever!” 
Faya Rose Toure, Founder and National Coordinator of The Bridge Crossing Jubilee said: “The Bridge Crossing Jubilee is needed every year. But in light of the massive devastation in Selma, it is needed now more than ever. The Bridge Crossing Jubilee 2023 is an opportunity to not just build back Selma but to build the Beloved Community in Selma.” 
Sanders said: “Every year tens of thousands of people come from across the country and across the world to participate in the Selma Bridge Crossing Jubilee. They come on a spiritual journey. They get revived spiritually. They share with others from across the country and world. But they do not leave anything behind in Selma. This year, we are asking folks to come and be spiritually revived and to share with one another but to continue to do something to help build the Beloved Community in Selma.”  
“It is not enough to build Selma back as it was. This is an opportunity to build Selma into the Beloved Community that those Foot Soldiers on the Bridge risked their lives to build,” said Toure. We are asking all organizations in and out of Selma to develop their own initiatives consistent with the Selma of justice, fairness and prosperity. The 2023 Bridge Crossing Jubilee – Now More Than Ever!” said Toure.
Dallas County Probate Judge Jimmy Nunn said: “We need all the help we can get to overcome the devastation wrought by this tornado. We need as many people as possible to come to Selma during The Bridge Cross Jubilee to see the devastation so that they can help.”
Dr James Mitchell, Chairman of the Selma to Montgomery March Commemoration Foundation, said: “Many national leaders and other national personalities have been invited to the 2023 Jubilee, and we expect so many of them to come because they come every year but also because of the devastation in Selma. In fact, we expect more people to come this year than usual, and that has been many tens of thousands each year. Also, the Annual Martin & Coretta King Unity Breakfast will be back in the WCCS gym this year.”
Dr. Margaret Hardy, Jubilee Board Member, said: “I and others are making donations in the name of The Bridge Crossing Jubilee to help those in crisis in Selma as a result of the tornado devastation.” Members of the Selma-to-Montgomery March Foundation and the Bridge Crossing Jubilee and other leaders held a press conference today at 11:00 a.m. on the Selma side of the Foot of the Bridge concerning a very special Bridge Crossing Jubilee in light of the devastating tornado that hit Selma. The new theme in the aftermath of the tornado devastation in Selma is “The Selma Bridge Crossing Jubilee 2023 – Now More Than Ever.” 

For more information, contact: Hank Sanders (334) 782-1651 and

African veterans of French foreign wars to get full pensions long denied by France 

African veterans of French wars

Jan. 9, 2023 (GIN) – A check may soon be on its way for some of the last surviving African soldiers who fought in French wars around the world but were forced to live in France six months of the year in order to qualify for the pensions they were owed.
As a result of the six month rule, many retirees could not spend their last days in Africa with their wives and children. With the regulation now to be lifted, they will continue receiving their pension payment even if they move away permanently.
The decision on the long-awaited pensions was confirmed on Jan. 4. 
“After long years of fighting, we finally won,” Aïssata Seck, president of the Association for the Defense of Senegalese Tirailleurs’ Rights (Senegalese Riflemen), tweeted. 
According to Seck, there are currently less than 80 living tirailleurs. All of them are very old, with the youngest of them aged 90. A dozen live in separate rooms in a home in the Paris suburb of Bondy, where Seck serves as an elected official. 
The decision, applying a “principal of tolerance” for the veterans, will be formalized in a government letter to be published in coming days.
Meanwhile, a new film featuring Omar Sy, best known for the Netflix crime series “Lupin”, highlights the forgotten heroism of African riflemen from France’s former colonies who fought in the frontline trenches of the first world war.
Inspired by the true stories of 200,000 men drafted from French colonies, the work has personal resonance for the actor who was born and raised in France by parents of Mauritanian and Senegalese origins.
Tackling the film’s anti-war theme, the magazine Le Parisien asked Sy whether he found the current conflict in Ukraine upsetting.
Sy replied that Ukraine had not been “a crazy revelation” and that other conflicts taking place further afield had already touched him in equal measure.
“A war is a dark shadow over humanity, even when it’s on the other side of the world. We remember that man is capable of invading, of attacking civilians and children. It feels like we had to wait for Ukraine for us to wake up to this.”
“When it’s far away, they say over there, they’re savages, we’re no longer like that. It’s like at the beginning of Covid, when people said, It’s only the Chinese.”
At the Cannes film festival last year, director Mathieu Vadepied said the film aimed to rectify France’s failure to recognize the riflemen and tell their story.
In Senegal, the head of the National Office for Veterans and Victims of War said the decision was overdue.
“For a long time veterans have asked to return with their pensions but were not successful. This decision will relieve them. These veterans live alone, they live in extremely difficult conditions,” said Capt. Ngor Sarr.
Sarr, 85, fought for the French military in Algeria and Mauritania and then moved to France in 1993 so he could receive his pension. He said he then lost it when he returned to Senegal 20 years later.
“Many soldiers died, they didn’t get this opportunity despite the role they played in liberating France,” said Mamadou Lamine Thiam. His father also fought in Algeria and died in 2015, aged 85. 

Newswire: California family whose beachfront properties were seized 100 years ago, sells land back to county for $20 million

 Bruce beachfront in California

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent

The great-grandchildren of the African American couple Willa and Charles Bruce, whose land in Southern California was taken in 1924 and returned to the family last year, have opted to sell it back to the local government for $20 million.
In the 1920s, the beach resort was extremely popular with African American tourists. At that time, Black people were not permitted on white beaches.
The site became famously known as “Bruce’s Beach.”
The children and grandchildren of Charles and Willa Bruce fought for decades to get back the land.
Chief Duane Yellow Feather Shepard, a family historian and spokesman for the Bruce family, stated in a 2021 interview, “It was a very significant location because there was nowhere else along the California coast where African Americans could go to enjoy the water.”
The Ku Klux Klan and other white supremacists often threatened the Bruce family, but they kept the resort open and took care of the land.
In 1924, the municipal council used eminent domain to take the land to build a park. But, according to a TV show called “The Insider,” the area wasn’t used for many years.
Willa and Charles Bruce fought back in court, but their compensation was only $14,000. In recent years, local officials have estimated the property’s value to be as high as $75 million.
The area contains two coastal properties and is currently used for lifeguard training.
Janice Hahn, chair of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, revealed that the family would sell the property back to the local government. Hahn stated that the price was set through an appraisal.
Hahn stated, “This is what reparations look like, and it is a model I hope governments around the country would adopt.”
The statement made by Hahn may or may not be exactly what the Bruce family desired in addition to the restitution of their land. In 2021, Anthony Bruce, the great-great-grandson of Willa and Charles Bruce, told The New York Times, “An apology would be the least they could do.”


As of January 5, 2023 at 10:00 AM
(According to Alabama Political Reporter)

Alabama had 1,587, 224 confirmed cases of coronavirus, (23,290) more than last report, with 20,776 deaths (39) more
than last report.

Greene County had 2,219 confirmed cases, 34 more cases than last report), with 53 deaths

Sumter Co. had 3,035 cases with 55 deaths
Hale Co. had 5,574 cases with 110 deaths

Note: Greene County Physicians Clinic has testing and vaccination for COVID-19;
Call for appointments at 205/372-3388, Ext. 142; ages 5 and up.

Newswire: Pele, internationally acclaimed soccer star, dies at 82 in Brazil


By: Simon Chadwick, NewsOne

Pelé, soccer’s first global superstar, has died at the age of 82. To many fans, the Brazilian will be remembered as the best to have ever played the game.
For others it goes further: He was the symbol of soccer played with passion, gusto and a smile. Indeed, he helped to forge an image of the game, which even today lots of people continue to crave.
Pelé wasn’t just a great player and a wonderful ambassador for the world’s favorite game; he was a cultural icon. Indeed, he remains the face of a purity in soccer that existed long before big money and global geopolitics infiltrated the game.
It is testament to his legend that everyone from English 1966 World Cup winner Sir Bobby Charlton and current French superstar Kylian Mbappé to Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva – the former and incoming president of Brazil – and former U.S. President Barack Obama have led tributes to him.
Early days at Santos
Pelé was born Edson Arantes do Nascimento in Sao Paolo state, Brazil in 1940. His early years were the same as many soccer players who preceded him and countless who then followed and were inspired by him: born into poverty, introduced to the game by a family member, later becoming obsessed by a sport that taught him about life and gave him opportunities.
Youth team football came first, in 1953, when he signed for his local club, Bauru. But it was his first professional club, Santos, that propelled Pelé toward stardom. Having moved there in 1956, he played 636 matches and scored 618 goals before leaving in 1974. Not just the beating heart of the team, Pelé was also an immense, one-club loyalist.
Long before the feats of modern-day stars Cristiano Ronaldo or Erling Haaland, Pelé blazed a goal-scoring trail that marked him out as being significantly different to other players around him. Similarly, he displayed levels of skill which even today mean that some observers of the game place the Brazilian ahead of the likes of other contenders for the title of Greatest of All Time: Lionel Messi and Diego Maradona.
Within a year of signing for Santos, Pelé made his debut for Brazil, three months short of his 17th birthday. He scored in that game against Argentina, and 65 years later he remains the Brazilian national team’s youngest-ever scorer.
A year later, in 1958, this young player helped his national team win the World Cup in Sweden. Then again in 1962, at the World Cup in Chile, and once more at the 1970 tournament in Mexico.
Ultimately, Pelé played 92 times for Brazil, scoring 77 goals. By comparison, England’s Harry Kane has scored 53 times in 80 matches. In addition to his national team achievements, for his club Pelé won six Brazilian league titles and two South American championships.
The American years
Later, in 1975, he came out of semi-retirement to play for the New York Cosmos in the North American Soccer League. By then, Pelé was in his mid-30s but still managed to score 37 goals in 64 matches. Some believe that it was his brief stint playing in the United States that kick-started the country’s interest in football.
After his retirement, Pelé was venerated, adored and remained influential. He became FIFA’s Player of the 20th century, an award he shared with Maradona. In 2014, he was given FIFA’s first-ever Ballon d’Or Prix d’Honneur, and even Nelson Mandela spoke of his regard for the Brazilian when presenting him with a Laureus Lifetime Achievement Award, in 2000.
Pelé’s talent has never been in doubt. Yet it was fortuitous that he played at a time when soccer was emerging from the shadows cast by global conflict, when the world needed symbols of hope and sporting heroes.
The Brazilian was able to serve this purpose, though he did so during a period when television – first black-and-white, then color – brought soccer directly into people’s living rooms. At the time, Pelé was Messi, Ronaldo and Mbappé rolled into one – made globally consumable by this new technology.
Inevitably, during his life, Pelé encountered problems: his commercial activities were sometimes mired in controversy; at one stage he was labeled a left-wing antagonist of the Brazilian government, then was later described as being too conservative in his views of the Brazilian dictatorship. He had numerous children – some the result of affairs – and one of them, a son, Edinho, was sent to prison for laundering money made from drug deals.
However, the abiding memory is of a man who played soccer in a way that many of us – both amateurs and professionals – have all aspired to. Pelé was not only skillful, he also brought great joy to innumerable people across the world, over a period of decades. For all of us, even those with just the slightest interest in football, we will never forget him.
Simon Chadwick, Professor of Sport and Geopolitical Economy, SKEMA Business School
This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

ADECA holds meeting in Greene County to prepare for broadband

Diagram of Elements of a Broadband Network
from presentation at meeting
By: John Zippert, 
The Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA) sponsored an informational and introductory meeting on their Broadband Technical Assistance Program on December 14, 2022, at the Robert H. Young Community Center.
ADECA is working with the Greene County Commission and Greene County Industrial Development Authority (GCIDA) and CTC Technology and Energy, a well-respected consulting firm, to bring information and initiate a planning process to ensure that broadband is brought to all parts of the county at an affordable price.
Joanne Hovis with CTC Technology explained, “There are substantial resources in the CARES Act, American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and the Infrastructure bills passed by Congress to extend broadband throughout the nation. $42 billion has already been allocated and $100 billion more will be coming over the next two years. People in Alabama, particularly in underserved rural areas like Greene County, need to be aware and vigilant that these resources are coming and are used wisely to provide broadband to all the people, especially those who have been neglected in the past.”
The CTC Consultants called broadband, ‘the electricity of the 21st century’ meaning that fiber optic connections to the residential level will be needed for work, recreation, education, medical care, home security and many other functions as time goes forward in this century. Digital equity in terms of access and affordability for broadband with greater speeds will be a necessary utility for the future.
The speed of broadband is a critical factor in its future development. Faster speeds will be needed to transmit more complex data, like x-rays for tele-medicine, presentations with pictures and interactive maps, and complex video games played by groups of people.
 Currently the FCC definition is 25 megabits per second down and 3 megabits per second up. Congress set a new standard of 100/20 megabits in the ARPA and Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Alabama has set a 100/100 Mbps standard for future infrastructure funded by the state. Fiber optic connections will be needed for services provided by to meet these standards.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has recently issued a new map, available on its website, of currently available broadband connections. The ADECA consultants urged local officials to study these maps and make challenges where the maps are incorrect, so the state planning process will be grounded in true data.
The State of Alabama expects to receive more than a $100 million dollars, from Federal sources) over the next two years to work with local communities and Internet Service Providers (ISP’s) to provide a broadband network, down to the residential level. This will provide broadband services to all people, especially in underserved rural areas, like Greene County with large populations of African American and poor people.
Several representatives of ISP’s were represented at the meeting, including Charter Communications, A. T & T, Eagle Wireless, Meridian Wireless Manufacturing and Tallis Communications, a broadband equipment manufacturer. These ISP’s introduced themselves and said they were working with ADECA to bring broadband to Greene County. Conspicuously absent was any representation from Black Warrior Electric Cooperative. In several parts of the state of Alabama, electrical cooperatives have taken the lead in bringing broadband to their rural residents.
Another aspect of providing broadband services involves making them affordable to people of low and modest incomes. The CTC Consultants said there was an existing Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) which provides $30 per month subsidy to assist low-income residents to afford internet services. The program includes support for discounts to acquire devises like tablets, laptop computers and smart phones. 75% of the eligible households in Greene County have yet to enroll in this program. This statistic is also a measure of the current limitation of access to broadband in Greene County.
Unless replenished by increased Federal appropriations, the Affordable Connectivity Program will run out of funding in two years. This of course is right about the time that broadband access is projected for Greene County residents through other programs.
ADECA representatives explained that this was the first of several meetings to prepare for and plan for broadband access in Greene County.
Between this meeting and the next in the Spring of 2023, they recommended that the County officials review the FCC map of broadband access and report any errors and omissions, since these maps will be used to plan future services based on greatest need. Secondly, they suggested a continuing dialog with ISP’s to determine ways to collaborate to insure services to all areas of the county.
ADECA and the consultants also urged officials present to help encourage eligible people to enroll in the Affordable Connectivity Program, to get the $30 per month subsidy on the cost of broadband. They also suggested that local officials and organizations study the Rural Digital Opportunities Fund for ways to help people get the devices needed to connect to the internet, including services that would lend people tablets and laptops to use to connect to the Internet.
Persons interested in learning more about the Broadband Technical Assistance Program, may contact: Mac Underwood, CFO, Greene County Commission, 205-372-3349; or Phillis Belcher, Executive Director GCIDA at 205-372-9769 org

Newswire : Only three African women on Forbes List of ‘100 Most Powerful Women’

Samia Suluhu Hassan, President of Tanzania

Dec. 25, 2022 (GIN) – Tanzanian president Samia Suluhu Hassan, Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala who is the current Director General of the World Trade Organization and Nigerian media mogul Mosunmola Abudu are the only African women featuring in the list of the World’s Most Powerful 100 Women by Forbes.
Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is the top-ranked African woman at position 91. The Director-General of the World Trade Organization since March 2021, she is the first woman and first African to lead the World Trade Organization as Director-General.
In 95th place on the list is Samia Suluhu Hassan, president of Tanzania since March 2021. She became president following the death of President John Pombe Magufuli and is the first female president of Tanzania.
Mosunmola Abudu at age 58 is the youngest of the African women on the Forbes list. A media mogul, philanthropist and a former human resources management consultant, she is highly ranked among the 25 most powerful women in global television.
Despite the minimal representation in platforms such as Forbes, the continent has demonstrated a commitment to promoting gender equality and the empowerment of women. Almost all countries have ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women; more than half have ratified the African Union’s Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa. Other milestones include the African Union’s declaration of 2010–2020 as the African Women’s Decade.
Although Africa includes both low- and middle-income countries, poverty rates are still high. The majority of women work in insecure, poorly paid jobs, with few opportunities for advancement. Democratic elections are increasing, and a record number of women have successfully run for seats. But electoral-related violence is a growing concern.
In contrast, the United States has 50 women on the same Forbes list, including Vice President Kamala Harris, philanthropist Melinda Gates, media star Oprah Winfrey and  former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
“The list was determined by four main metrics: money, media, impact and spheres of influence. For political leaders, “ noted Forbes. “We weighed gross domestic products and populations; for corporate leaders, revenues and employee counts; and media mentions and reach of all. The result is a collection of women who are fighting the status quo.”
Iranian woman Jina “Mahsa” Amini also made it to the list at position 100, albeit posthumously. Her death in September sparked the unprecedented women-led revolution in Iran. W/pix of Tanzanian president Samia Suluhu Hassan

Newswire : Biden-⁠Harris Administration announces historic investment to electrify U.S. Postal Service fleet

US Postal Service vehicles

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent

The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) has announced an historic, $9.6 billion investment over the next five years to electrify its delivery fleet.

The USPS investment includes electrifying 75% of its new purpose-built Next Generation Delivery Vehicles (NGDV) and a commitment to acquire 100% electric NGDVs starting in 2026.

With the announcement, federal officials said the USPS “demonstrates how it is leading by example for the Federal Government in achieving President Biden’s charge to electrify the U.S. Government’s 650,000 vehicles.”

The $9.6 billion investment – which includes $3 billion in funding from the Inflation Reduction Act – installs modern charging infrastructure at hundreds of USPS facilities, electrifies 66,000 delivery vehicles, “and modernizes mail delivery by creating a smarter network to more efficiently reach its 163 million delivery locations across the country and further strengthen the sustainability of this critical public service,” White House officials said.

Earlier this year, President Joe Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act to help bring down everyday costs – including costs for energy. Administration officials said the Inflation Reduction Act’s once-in-a-generation investment in America’s infrastructure “delivers the most significant action ever to tackle the climate crisis and strengthen U.S. energy security, including $3 billion to modernize the USPS delivery fleet.”

The new announcement sustains “reliable mail service to Americans while modernizing the fleet, reducing operating costs, increasing clean air in our neighborhoods, creating jobs, and improving public health,” officials noted in a news release.

Biden’s ambitious goal for 50% of new vehicles sold in 2030 to be electric has accelerated investments and jumpstarted the EV market in America, officials said.
Since Biden took office, U.S. electric vehicle sales reportedly have tripled and are now higher than ever before.

One year ago, through the president’s Executive Order on Catalyzing Clean Energy Industries and Jobs Through Federal Sustainability, the Biden-Harris Administration released the most ambitious sustainability plan ever, establishing a goal for 100% acquisition of zero emission light-duty vehicles by 2027 and medium- and heavy-duty vehicles by 2035.

Now, the USPS said it would exceed Biden’s requirement for each agency to electrify its federal fleet. Over the next five years, the Postal Service will purchase 45,000 specialized USPS NGDV electric vehicles and 21,000 commercial off-the-shelf electric vehicles.

“We commend the U.S. Postal Service,” John Podesta, Senior Advisor to the President, said in a news release. “The USPS plan leverages the $3 billion provided by the Inflation Reduction Act to hit the target of 100% electric delivery vehicle purchases in 2026, sets the postal fleet on a course for electrification, significantly reduces vehicles miles traveled in the network, and places USPS at the forefront of the clean transportation revolution.”

The U.S. government operates the largest vehicle fleet in the world, and USPS is the largest vehicle fleet in the Federal government. Through the administration’s action, the White House said USPS sets the bar for the rest of the Federal government, and, importantly, the rest of the world.

In the plan, the USPS invests the full $3 billion in Inflation Reduction Act funds to increase ambition and pace in electrifying its fleet, including $1.3 billion for electric delivery vehicles and $1.7 billion for charging infrastructure.

Coupled with $6.6 billion in USPS funds, the overall $9.6 billion, 100,000-vehicle modernization plan results in 66,000 electric delivery vehicles and tens of thousands of charging stations through 2028, and a target of acquiring only electric delivery vehicles after 2026.

“The U.S. Postal Service plan sets the pace for other leading public and private sector fleets. It is clear that the future of transportation is electric – and that future is here,” said Council on Environmental Quality Chair Brenda Mallory.

“As electric mail trucks hit routes across the country, neighborhoods will see cleaner air, better health, and good-paying clean energy jobs.”

Moving packages from point A to point B in a way that’s cleaner, more cost-effective, and accelerating toward an electric vehicle future stamped “Made in America,” said the President’s National Climate Adviser Ali Zaidi.

Newswire : How Kwanzaa has redefined the winter holidays for Black folks

Gerard Greenige, lights candles with his daughter, Asha Greenige, 4, during a Kwanzaa celebration at Shore Books in Long Beach, CA on December 26, 2008. | Source: MediaNews Group/Orange County Register via Getty Images / Getty

By Frank Dobson, NewsOne

On Dec. 26, millions throughout the world’s African community began weeklong celebrations of Kwanzaa. There will be daily ceremonies with food, decorations and other cultural objects, such as the kinara, which holds seven candles. At many Kwanzaa ceremonies, there is also African drumming and dancing.
It is a time of communal self-affirmation — when famous Black heroes and heroines, as well as late family members – are celebrated.
As a scholar who has written about racially motivated violence against blacks, directed black cultural centers on college campuses and sponsored numerous Kwanzaa celebrations, I understand the importance of this holiday.
For the History of Kwanzaa
Maulana Karenga, a noted Black American scholar and activist, created Kwanzaa in 1966. Its name is derived from the phrase “matunda ya kwanza” which means “first fruits” in Swahili, the most widely spoken African language. However, Kwanzaa, the holiday, did not exist in Africa.
Each day of Kwanzaa is devoted to celebrating the seven basic values of African culture or the “Nguzo Saba” which in Swahili means the seven principles. Translated these are: unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics (building black businesses), purpose, creativity and faith. A candle is lit on each day to celebrate each one of these principles. On the last day, a black candle is lit and gifts are shared.
Today, Kwanzaa is quite popular. It is celebrated widely on college campuses, the U.S. Postal Service has periodically issued Kwanzaa stamps, there is at least one municipal park named for it, and there are special Kwanzaa greeting cards.
Kwanzaa’s meaning for the Black community
Kwanzaa was created by Karenga out of the turbulent times of the 1960s in Los Angeles, following the 1965 Watts riots, when a young African American was pulled over on suspicion of drunk driving, resulting in an outbreak of violence.
Subsequently, Karenga co-founded an organization called Us – meaning, black people – which promoted black culture. The purpose of the organization was to provide a platform which would help to rebuild the Watts neighborhood through a strong organization rooted in African culture.
Karenga called its creation an act of cultural discovery, which simply meant that he wished to point African Americans to greater knowledge of their African heritage and past.
Rooted in the struggles and the gains of the civil rights and black power movements of the 1950s and 1960s, it was a way of defining a unique black American identity. As Keith A. Mayes, a scholar of African American history, notes in his book.
Overturning white definitions
Today, the holiday has come to occupy a central role, not only in the U.S. but also in the global African diaspora.
A 2008 documentary, “The Black Candle” that filmed Kwanzaa observances in the United States and Europe, shows children not only in the United States, but as far away as France, reciting the principles of the Nguzo Saba.
It brings together the black community not on the basis of their religious faith, but a shared cultural heritage. Explaining the importance of the holiday for African Americans today, writer Amiri Baraka, says during an interview in the documentary.
Indeed, since the early years of the holiday, until today, Kwanzaa has provided many black families with tools for instructing their children about their African heritage.
Current activism and Kwanzaa
This spirit of activism and pride in the African heritage is evident on college campus Kwanzaa celebrations – one of which I recently attended. (It was done a few days early so that students going on break could participate.)
The speaker, a veteran of the Nashville civil rights movement, spoke about Kwanzaa as a time of memory and celebration. Wearing an African dashiki, he led those in attendance – blacks and whites and those of other ethnicities – in Kwanzaa songs and recitations. On a table decorated in kente cloth, a traditional African fabric, was a kinara, which contains seven holes, to correspond to the Seven Principles of Kwanzaa. There were three red candles on the left side of the kinara, and three green candles on the right side of the kinara. The center candle was black. The colors of the candles represent the red, black and green of the African Liberation flag.
The auditorium was packed. Those in attendance, young and old, black and white, held hands and chanted slogans celebrating black heroes and heroines as diverse as the civil rights icons Rosa Parks and Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Jamaican musician Bob Marley.
It was a cultural observance that acknowledged solidarity with the struggles of the past and with one another. Like the black power movements, such as today’s Black Lives Matter movement, it is an affirmation of “Black folks’ humanity,” their “contributions to this society,” and “resilience in the face of deadly oppression.”
Karenga wanted to “reaffirm the bonds between us” (black people) and to counter the damage done by the “holocaust of slavery.” Kwanzaa celebrations are a moment of this awareness and reflection.
Frank Dobson, Associate Dean of Students, Vanderbilt University. This article was originally published in The Conversation..