kwanzaaShades of Afrika is scheduled to hold its annual Kwanzaa celebration in Long Beach Thursday night, featuring spiritual dancers, drumming, poetry reading and cultural food.

The store, which has evolved from gift shop to cultural center, has been hosting Kwanzaa celebrations for over a dozen years. Shades of Afrika CEO Renee Quarles said she incorporates her own traditions along with the principles of the holiday, which was created in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga, who is the current chair of Cal State Long Beach’s Department of Africana Studies.

“We love the traditions of Kwanzaa, it blends both the African American perspective to that of the Ashanti and Zulu tribes,” Quarles, who has lived and worked in the city for 27 years, told the Post.


Dr. Karenga organized Kwanzaa around a set of communitarian African values, called the Nguzo Saba. These seven principles include Umoja (unity), Kujicahgulia (self-determination), Ujima (collective work and responsibility), Ujama (cooperative economics), Nia (purpose), Kuumba (creativity) and Imani (faith). Each day of Kwanzaa focuses on one of these driving principles and is expressed through the lighting of colored candles, dancing, reciting poetry and the giving of appropriate gifts.

The event will be held Thursday, December 28—on the third day of Kwanzaa—at 7:00P in a masonic lodge just a few minutes away from the store. Guests can expect spiritual dancers, drummers, poetry readings, face painting and a pop-up photo booth. Food will also be served, including stir fry collard greens, rice, salad, black eyed peas, black beans, barley stew, blackberry cobbler and bean pies. There will also be an after-party for adults who will be able to play everything from dominoes, spades and chess.

The event is $25 for those ages 18 and older, $15 for those ages 9-17 and free for those 8 and under. For more information contact (562) 436-2210.

Sunset Lodge #26 is located at 516 West Ester Street.

Above, left: stock photo.

Stephanie Rivera is the community engagement editor. Reach her at [email protected] or on Twitter at @StephRivera88.