BCC event launches pre-Kwanzaa celebration

Volunteers were invited to take part in a presentation by percussionist Morgan Matsiga.
Morgan Matsiga plays the bongos Thursday for the Gaines/Oldham Black Student Center's Pre-Kwanzaa Celebration. This was his first time playing here since the center's ribbon-cutting ceremony in 1998.

As the fall semester comes to a close, Christmas carols, jingle bells and Santa hats are commonplace on campus. But on Thursday night, students at the Gaines/Oldham Black Culture Center gathered to celebrate another major winter holiday.

Kwanzaa is a Pan-African holiday that has been celebrated annually since it was conceived and developed by Dr. Maulana Karenga in 1966, sophomore Kaylan Holloway said.

“Kwanzaa is traditionally celebrated from Dec. 26 to Jan. 1,” Holloway said. “Each day is focused on Nguzo Saba or the Seven Principles derived from the Swahili phrase 'matunda ya kwanza' which means 'first fruits.'”

The pre-Kwanzaa celebration offered a history of Kwanzaa mixed with poetry readings, singing, a candle-lighting ceremony, African musical presentations and a soul food dinner to end the night.

Sophomore LySaundra Campbell, who emceed the event, explained the Seven Principles of Kwanzaa during the candle-lighting ceremony. The seven principles are: unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith.

Campbell explained the meaning of Imani, the seventh principle.

“Last at seven we have Imani, which means 'faith,'” Campbell said. “Believing in our people, our families, our educators, our leaders and the righteousness of the African struggle.”

After the candle lighting, two instrumental performances displayed the musical talents of St. Louis resident Nigel Thomas and MU alumni Morgan Matsiga.

Thomas gave a short presentation on the steel drum before playing an interpretation of “Under the Sea" from "The Little Mermaid" and then UB40's “Red Red Wine.”

Matsiga, a percussionist from the local group Universal Drum Appeal, earned two master's degrees from MU and hosts a radio show called “Motherland Jam” on KOPN/89.5 FM. He performed an interactive African percussion piece that invited audience members to try out the different instruments.

After introducing a number of his African instruments including bongos, congas and an African talking drum, Matsiga played a demonstrative piece on the instruments before allowing volunteers to drum along to a rhythm clapped out by the rest of the audience.

Matsiga then ended the night with a history of the BCC.

“A long time ago, student organizations on campus used to demonstrate right in front of the quadrangle just to have the funding secured for this wonderful state-of-the-art facility,” he said.

As a student who attended MU prior to the building’s development, he encouraged students to appreciate the facility that so many students demonstrated for in the past.

“We cannot take this for granted,” he said. “We have a wonderful thing here. Take advantage of it and try to learn as much as you can about the motherland. That’s what Kwanzaa is all about.”

As the night ended, students gathered to talk and share a meal with the presenters and each other. Holloway said Kwanzaa is a holiday that brings together Africans and African-Americans of all faiths and backgrounds.

“Kwanzaa seeks to enforce a connectedness to African cultural identity and is a focal point for the gathering of the African peoples to reflect on the seven principles that have sustained Africans,” he said.

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