By Steven Herbert, City News Service

Today marks the beginning of the seven-day festival of Kwanzaa, a holiday created by a Cal State Long Beach professor in the 1960s for African Americans to honor their shared heritage and culture.

A parade, festival and dusk candlelighting ceremony are scheduled today in South Los Angeles to mark the start of Kwanzaa. The KwanZaa Gwaride Parade, themed “A Helping Hand,” will begin at 11 a.m. at Adams and Crenshaw boulevards. The procession will head south on Crenshaw to Leimert Park, where the festival will be held, culminating with a dusk candlelighting ceremony.

Pasadena will conduct its 30th annual Kwanzaa celebration from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Thursday at the Pasadena Public Library’s La Pintoresca Branch. Thanayi Karenga, daughter of Kwanzaa creator Maulana Karenga, will lead the event, which will include music, stories and refreshments provided by the Pasadena Alumnae Chapter of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority. The Tournament of Roses Royal Court is scheduled to make an appearance.

On Sunday, Dec. 30, Long Beach African gift shop Village Treasures and Dembrebrah Drum and Dance Ensemble, an African American cultural association, will celebrate Kwanzaa at the Expo Arts Center.

Maulana Karenga, chair of Africana Studies at Cal State Long Beach, created Kwanzaa in 1966 in what he called “an audacious act of self-determination.” The 2018 theme of Kwanzaa is “Reimagining and Remaking the World: A Kwanzaa Commitment to an Inclusive Good.”

“At the very heart and center of the celebration of Kwanzaa is the ethical imperative and social obligation of the cooperative creation and sharing of an inclusive Good,” Maulana Karenga wrote in his annual founder’s message. “This principle and related practice are rooted in its ancient origins in the African harvest and the communitarian worldview and way of life that undergirded and informed it. The ancient roots of Kwanzaa in the shared African harvest and the celebration of it, immediately bring to mind the sacred teachings given to us by our honored ancestors in the Odu Ifa which tells and teaches us we are to constantly strive and struggle to bring good into the world, share it and not let any good be lost.”

Kwanzaa’s focus is the “Nguzo Saba,” the Seven Principles—unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith.

During the week, a candelabrum called a Kinara is lit, and ears of corn representing each child in the family are placed on a traditional strawmat. African foods such as millet, spiced pepper balls and rice are often served. Some people fast during the holiday and a feast is often held on its final night.

A flag with three bars—red for the struggle for freedom, black for unity and green for the future—is sometimes displayed during the holiday.

Kwanzaa is based on the theory of Kawaida, which espouses that social revolutionary change for black America can be achieved by exposing blacks to their cultural heritage.

Stephanie Rivera contributed to this report.